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I 




HARVARD 
COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 



TALES OF 
MEN AND GHOSTS 



BOOKS BY EDITH WHARTON 

Tbs Qbbatbb Imcunahon. 12mo • • $1.60 

Ths ToucHViOMa. 12mo $1.25 

Cbuqal Instancbs. 12mo $1.60 

The Vallbt of Dbcueom. 12mo . . . $1.60 

Samctuabt. 12ino $L25 

Thb Dbscbnt or Man and Othbb Sto- 

Biaa. 12mo $1.50 

Thb Housb of Mxbtk. 12mo .... $1.50 

Thb Fbuit of thb Tbbb. 12ino . . . $1.50 

Thb Hbbmit and the Wild Woman and 

Otkbb Stobibb. 12mo $1.60 

Talbb of Men and Qhoato. 12mo . . $1.50 

Italian Bagkobounds. Illiu., 8vo. net $2.50 

A MoTOB Fuoirr Thbouoh Fbancb. 

Dlus.. 8yo net $2.00 

ABTBMia TO AcriK>N and Othbb Vbbbb 

net $1.25 



aTALES OF 
MEN AND GHOSTS / 



BY 



EDITH WHARTON 



NEW YORK 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 



Ala 



7^7, 



rc.a, 



comuoHT, 1910, BT cHJiRLEs bcbibnkb'8 sons 

PvUMtd Odaitr, IS 10 




CONTENTS 

I 
The Bdted Door 1 

n 

His Father't Son 71 

III 
The DamU Diana 101 

IV 
The DdA 126 

V 
Fuff Cirde 151 

VI 
Th» Legend 193 

VII 
>^The Eye$ 241 

VIII 
The Blond Beatt 275 

IX 
Afterward 321 

X 
The Letters 375 



THE BOLTED DOOR 



THE BOLTED DOOR 



HUBERT Granice, padng the length of his pleas- 
ant lamp-lit library, paused to compare his watch 
with the clock on the chimney-piece. 

Three minutes to eight. 

In exactly three minutes Mr. Peter Ascham, of the 
eminent l^al firm of Ascham and Pettilow» would 
have his punctual hand on the door-bell of the flat. 
It was a comfort to reflect that Ascham was so punctual 
— ^the suspense was beginning to make his host nervous. 
And the sound of the door-bell would be the b^inning 
of the end — after that there'd be no going back, by 
God — ^no going back! 

Granice resumed his pacing. Each time he reached 
the end of the room opposite the door he caught his 
reflection in the Florentine mirror above the fine old 
cridenee he had picked up at Dijon — ^saw himself 
spare, quick-moving, carefully brushed and dressed, but 
furrowed, gray about the temples, with a stoop which 
he corrected by a spasmodic straightening of the 
shoulders whenever a glass confronted him: a tired 
middle-aged man, baffled, beaten, worn out. 

[8] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

As he summed himself up thus for the third or fourth 
time the door opened and he turned with a thrill of 
relief to greet his guest. But it was only the man-servant 
who entered, advancing silently over the mossy surface 
of the old Turkey rug. 

'*Mr. Ascham telephones, sir, to say he's unexpect- 
edly detained and can't be here till eight-thirty." 

Granice made a curt gesture of annoyance. It was 
becoming harder and harder for him to control these 
reflexes. He turned on his heel, tossing to the servant 
over his shoulder: "Very good. Put oflF dinner." 

Down his spine he felt the man's injured stare. Mr. 
Granice had always been so mild-spoken to his people 
— no doubt the odd change in his manner had already 
been noticed and discussed below stairs. And very 
likely they suspected the cause. He stood drumming 
on the writing-table till he heard the servant go out; 
then he threw himself into a chair, propping his el- 
bows on the table and resting his chin on his locked 
hands. 

Another half hour alone with it! 

He wondered irritably what could have detained his 
guest. Some professional matter, no doubt — ^the punc- 
tilious lawyer would have allowed nothing less to inter- 
fere with a dinner engagement, more especially since 
Granice, in his note, had said: ''I shall want a little 
business chat afterward." 

[4] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

Bat what professional matter could have come up at 
that unprofessional hour? Perhaps some other soul in 
miseiy had called on the lawyer; and» after all, Granice's 
note had given no hint of his own need! No doubt 
Aseham thought he merely wanted to make another 
change in his will. Since he had come into his little 
property, ten years earlier, Granice had been perpetu- 
aUy tinkering with his will. 

Suddenly another thought pulled him up, sending 
a flush to his temples. He remembered a word he had 
tossed to the lawyer some six weeks earlier, at the 
Century Club. "Yes — my play's as good as taken. I 
shall be calling on you soon to go over the contract. 
Those theatrical chaps are so slippery — I won't trust 
anybody but you to tie the knot for me!" That, of 
course, was what Aseham would think he was wanted 
for. Granice, at the idea, broke into an audible laugh 
— a queer stage-laugh, like the cackle of a baffled villain 
in a melodrama. The absurdity, the unnaturalness of 
the sound abashed him, and he compressed his lips 
angrily. Would he take to soliloquy next ? 

He lowered his arms and pulled open the upper 
drawer of the writing-table. In the right-hand comer 
lay a manuscript, bound in paper folders, and tied 
with a string beneath which a letter had been slipped. 
Next to the manuscript was a revolver. Granice stared 
a moment at these oddly associated objects; then he 

[«] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

took the letter from under the string and slowly began 
to open it. He had known he should do so from the 
moment hb hand touched the drawer. Whenever his 
eye fell on that letter some relentless force compelled 
him to re-read it. 

It was dated about four weeks back, under the letter- 
head of "The Diversity Theatre." 

"My dear Mr. Gbanice: 

"I have given the matter my best consideration for 
the last month, and it's no use — ^the play won't do. 
I have talked it over with Miss Melrose — and you 
know there isn't a gamer artist on our stage — ^and I 
regret to tell you she feels just as I do about it. It isn't 
the poetry that scares her — or me either. We both want 
to do all we can to help along the poetic drama — ^we 
believe the public's ready for it, and we're willing to 
take a big financial risk in order to be the first to give 
them what they want. BiU we donH believe they could 
be made to want this. The fact is, there isn't enough 
drama in your play to the allowance of poetry — the 
thing drags all through. You've got a big idea, but it's 
not out of swaddling clothes. 

"If thb was your first play I'd say: Try again. But 
it has been just the same with all the others you've 
shown me. And you remember the result of 'The 
Lee Shore,' where you carried all the expenses of pro- 

[6] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

duction yourself, and we couldn't fill the theatre for 
a week. Yet 'The Lee Shore' was a modem problem 
play — much easier to swing than blank verse. It isn't 
as if you hadn't tried all kinds " 

Granioe folded the letter and put it carefully back 
into the envelope. Why on earth was he re-reading it» 
when he knew eveiy phrase in it by heart, when for 
a month past he had seen it, night after night, stand 
out in letters of flame against the darkness of his 
sleepless lids? 

**It has been just the same with aU the others you*ve 
shown me.** 

That was the way they dismissed ten years of pas- 
sionate unremitting work! 

" You remember the resuU of *The Lee Shore.*** 
Good God — ^as if he were likely to forget it! He re- 
lived it all now in a drowning flash: the persistent re- 
jection of the play, his resolve to put it on at his own 
cost, to spend ten thousand dollars of his inheritance 
on testing his chance of success — the fever of prepa- 
ratbn, the diy-mouthed agony of the "first night," the 
fiat fall, the stupid press, his secret rush to Europe to 
escape the condolence of his friends! 
**It isn*t as if you hadn*t tried all kinds.** 
No — he had tried all kinds: comedy, tragedy, prose 
and verse, the light curtain-raiser, the short sharp 

[7] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

drama, the bourgeois-realistic and the lyrical-romantic 
— ^finally deciding that he would no longer ^^ prostitute 
his talent'' to win popularity, but would impose on the 
public his own theory of art in the form of five acts of 
blank verse. Yes, he had offered them everything — 
and always with the same result. 

Ten years of it — ^ten years of dogged work and un- 
relieved failure. The ten years from forty to fifty — the 
best ten years of his life! And if one counted the years 
before, the years of dreams, assimilation, preparation — 
then call it half a man's life-time: half a man's life- 
time thrown away! 

And what was he to do with the remaining half? 
Well, he had settled that, thank God! He turned and 
glanced anxiously at the clock. Ten minutes past eight 
— only ten minutes had been consumed in that stormy 
rush through his past! And he must wait another twenty 
minutes for Ascham. It was one of the worst symp- 
toms of his case that, in proportion as he had grown to 
shrink from human company, he dreaded more and 
more to be alone. . • But why the devil was he waiting 
for Ascham? Why didn't he cut the knot himself? 
Since he was so unutterably sick of the whole business, 
why did he have to call in an outsider to rid him of this 
nightmare of living ? 

He opened the drawer again and laid his hand on 
the revolver. It was a slim ivory toy — ^just the instru- 

[8] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

ment for a tired su£Ferer to give himself a ** hypodermic " 
with. Granice raised it in one hand» while with the 
other he felt under the thin hair at the back of his 
head, between the ear and the nape. He knew just 
where to place the muzzle: he had once got a surgeon 
to show him. And as he found the spot, and lifted 
the revolver to it, the inevitable phenomenon occurred. 
The hand that held the weapon began to shake, the 
tremor passed into his arm, his heart gave a leap which 
sent up a wave of deadly nausea to his throat, he smelt 
the powder, he sickened at the crash of the bullet 
through his skull, and a sweat broke out over his 
forehead and ran down his quivering face. . . 

He laid away the revolver and, pulling out his hand- 
kerchief, passed it tremulously over his brow and tem- 
ples. It was of no use — ^he knew he could never do it in 
that way. His attempts at self-destruction were as futile 
as his snatches at fame! He couldn't make himself a 
real life, and he couldn't get rid of the life he had. 
And that was why he had sent for Ascham to help 
him. . . 

The lawyer, over the cheese and Burgundy, began 
to excuse himself for his delay. 

''I didn't like to say anything while your nuin was 
about; but the fact is, I was sent for on a rather unusual 
matter '* 

[9] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

"Oh, it's all right," said Granice cheerfully. He 
was beginning to feel the reaction that food and com- 
pany always produced in him. It was not any re- 
covered pleasure in life that he felt, but only a deeper 
withdrawal into himself. It was easier to go on auto- 
matically with the social gestures than to uncover to 
any human eye the abyss within him. 

"My dear fellow, it's sacril^e to keep a dinner 
waiting — especially the production of an artist like 
yours." Mr. Ascham sipped his Burgundy luxuriously. 
"But the fact is, Mrs. Ashgrove sent for me." 

Granice raised his head with a movement of surprise. 
For a moment he was shaken out of his self-absorption. 

**Mrs. Ashgrove f* 

Ascham smiled. "I thought you'd be interested; I 
know your passion for causes ceHbres. And this prom- 
ises to be one. Of course it's out of our line entirely — 
we never touch criminal cases. But she wanted to con- 
sult me as a friend. Ashgrove was a distant connection 
of my wife's. And, by Jove, it t^ a queer case!" The 
servant re-entered, and Ascham snapped his lips shut. 

Would the gentlemen have their coffee in the dining- 
room? 

"No — serve it in the library," said Granice, rising. 

He led the way back to the curtained confidential room. 

He was really curious to hear what Ascham had to tell 

him 

[10] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

While the coffee and cigars were being served he 
fidgeted about, glancing at his letters — the usual mean- 
ingless notes and bills — and picking up the evening 
paper. As he unfolded it a headline caught his eye. 

"ROSE MELROSE WANTS TO PLAY POETRY. 
"THINKS SHE HAS FOUND HER POET." 

He read on with a thumping heart — ^found the name 
of a young author he had barely heard of, saw the title 
of a play, a "poetic drama/' dance before his eyes, and 
dropped the paper, sick, disgusted. It was true, then — 
she toas "game" — it was not the manner but the matter 
she mistrusted! 

Granioe turned to the servant, who seemed to be 
purposely lingering. "I shan't need you this evening, 
Flint. I'U lock up myself." 

He fancied that the man's acquiescence implied sur- 
prise. What was going on, Flint seemed to wonder, 
that Mr. Granice should want him out of the way? 
Probably he would find a pretext for coming back to 
see. Granice suddenly felt himself enveloped in a 
network of espionage. 

As the door closed he threw himself into an armchair 
and leaned forward to take a light from Ascham 's cigar. 

"Tell me about Mrs. Ashgrove," he said, seeming 
to himself to speak stiffly, as if his lips were cracked. 

[11] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 



"Mrs. Ashgrove? Well, there's not much to tell." 
"And you couldn't if there were?" Granice smiled. 
"Probably not. As a matter of fact, she wanted my 

advice about her choice of counsel. There was nothing 

especially confidential in our talk." 

"And what's your impression, now you've seen her ?" 
"My impression is, very distinctly, that nothing will 

ever be known,** 

Ah ?" Granice murmured, puffing at his cigar. 

I'm more and more convinced that whoever poi- 

coned Ashgrove knew his business, and will consequently 

never be found out. That's a capital cigar you've given 



« 



me. 



"You like it? I get them over from Cuba." Granice 
examined his own reflectively. "Then you believe in 
the theoiy that the clever criminals never are caught ?" 

"Of course I do. Look about you — look back for 
the last dozen years — none of the big murder problems 
are ever solved." The lawyer ruminated behind his 
blue cloud. "Why, take the instance in your own 
family: I'd forgotten I had an illustration at hand! 
Take old Joseph Lenman's murder — do you suppose 
that will ever be explained ?" 

As the words dropped from Ascham's lips his host 
looked about the library, and every object in it stared 
back at him with a stale unescapable familiarity. How 
sick he was of looking at that room! It was as dull 

[12] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

as the face of a wife one has tired of. He cleared his 
throat slowly; then he turned his head to the lawyer 
and said: ''I could explain the Lenman murder my- 
self." 

Ascham's eye kindled: he shared Granice's interest 
in criminal cases. 

"By Jove! You've had a theory all this time? It's 
odd you never mentioned it. Go ahead and tell me. 
There are certain features in the Lenman case not 
unlike this Ashgrove affau-, and your idea may be a 
help." 

Granice paused and his eye reverted instinctively 
to the table drawer in which the revolver and the manu- 
script lay side by side. What if he were to tiy another 
appeal to Rose Melrose ? Then he looked at the notes 
and bills on the table, and the horror of taking up again 
the lifeless routine of life — of performing the same 
automatic gestures another day — dispelled hb fleeting 
impulse. 

"It's not an idea. I know who murdered Joseph 
L^enman." 

Ascham settled himself comfortably in his chair, pre- 
pared for enjoyment. 

You know ? Well, who did ?" he laughed. 
I did," said Granice, rising to his feet. 

He stood before Ascham, and the lawyer lay back, 

staring up at him. Then he broke into another laugh. 

[13] 






THE BOLTED DOOR 

^'Why, this is glorious! You murdered him» did you? 
To inherit hb money, I suppose? Better and better! 
Gk> on, my boy! Unbosom yourself! Tell me all about 
it! Confession is good for the soul." 

Granice waited till the lawyer had shaken the last 
peal of laughter from his throat; then he repeated 
doggedly: "I murdered him." 

The two men looked at each other for a long moment, 
and this time Ascham did not laugh. 

"Granice!" 

"I murdered him — ^to get his money, as you say." 

There was another pause, and Granice, with a vague 
sense of amusement, saw his guest's look gradually 
change from pleasantry to apprehension. 

"What's the joke, my dear fellow? I fail to see." 

"It's not a joke. It's the truth. I murdered him." 
He had spoken painfully at first, as if there were a knot 
in his throat; but each time he repeated the words he 
found they were easier to say. 

Ascham laid down his cigar. "What's the matter? 
Aren't you well? What on earth are you driving 
at?" 

"I'm perfectly well. But I murdered my cousin, 
Joseph Lenman, and I want it known that I murdered 
him." 

" You want it knovm ?** 

"Yes. That's why I sent for you. I'm sick of living, 

[14] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

and when I try to kill myself I funk it.'* He spoke quite 
naturally now* as if the knot in his throat had been 
untied. 

"Good Lord — good Lord," the lawyer gasped. 

"But I suppose/' Granice continued, "there's no 
doubt this would be murder in the first degree? I'm 
sure of the chair if I own up ?" 

Ascham drew a long breath; then he said slowly: 
*'Sit down, Granice. Let's talk." 



n 

Granice told his stoiy simply, connectedly. 

He b^an by a quick survey of his early years — 
the years of drudgeiy and privation. His father, a 
charming man who could never say "no," had so 
signally failed to say it on certain essential occasions 
that when he died he left an illegitimate family and a 
mortgaged estate. Hb lawful kin found themselves 
hanging over a gulf of debt, and young Granice, to 
support his mother and sister, had to leave Harvard 
and bury himself at eighteen in a broker's office. He 
loathed hb work, and he was always poor, always 
worried and often ill. A few years later hb mother 
died, but his sister, a helpless creature, remained on 
hb hands. Hb own hei^lth gave out, and he had to 
go away for six months, and work harder than ever 

[15] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

when he came back. He had no knack for business, 
no head for figures, no dimmest insight into the mys- 
teries of commerce. He wanted to travel and write — 
those were his inmost longings. And as the years 
dragged on, and he neared middle-age without making 
any more money, or acquiring any firmer health, a 
sick despair possessed him. He tried writing, but he 
always came home from the office so tired that his 
brain could not work. For half the year he did not 
reach his dim up-town flat till after dark, and could 
only ''brush up" for dinner, and afterward lie on the 
lounge with his pipe, while his sister droned through 
the evening paper. Sometimes he spent an evening at 
the theatre; or he dined out, or, more rarely, strayed 
off with an acquaintance or two in quest of what is 
known as ''pleasure." And in summer, when he and 
Kate went to the sea-side for a month, he dozed through 
the days in utter weariness. Once he fell in love with 
a charming girl — but what had he to offer her, in God's 
name ? She seemed to like him, and in common decency 
he had to drop out of the running. Apparently no one 
replaced him, for she never married, but grew stoutish, 
grayish, philanthropic — ^yet how sweet she had been 
when he first kissed her! One more wasted life, he 
reflected. . . 

But the stage had always been his master-passion. 
He would have sold his soul for the time and freedom 

[16 1 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

to write plays! It was in him — he could not remember 
when it had not been his deepest-seated instinct. As 
the years passed it became a morbid, a relentless ob- 
session — ^yet with every year the material conditions 
were more and more against it. He felt himself grow- 
ing middle-aged, and he watched the reflection of the 
process in his sister's wasted face. At eighteen she had 
been pretty, and as full of enthusiasm as he. Now she 
was sour, trivial, insignificant — ^she had missed her 
chance of life. And she had no resources, poor creature, 
was fashioned simply for the primitive functions she 
had been denied the chance to fulfil! It exasperated him 
to think of it — and to reflect that even now a little 
travel, a little health, a little money, might transform 
her, make her young and desirable. . . The chief fruit 
of hb experience was that there is no such fixed state 
as age or youth — ^there is only health as against sick- 
ness, wealth as against poverty; and age or youth as the 
outcome of the lot one draws. 

At this point in his narrative Granice stood up, and 
went to lean against the mantel-piece, looking down at 
Ascham, who had not moved from his seat, or changed 
his attitude of spell-bound attention. 

"Then came the summer when we went to Wrenfield 
to be near old Lenman — my mother's cousin, as you 
know. Some of the family always mounted guard over 
him — generally a niece or so. But that year they were 

[17] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

all scattered, and one of the nieces offered to lend us 
her cottage if we'd relieve her of duty for two months. 
It was a nuisance for me, of course, for Wrenfield is 
two hours from town; but my mother, who was a slave 
to family observances, had always been good to the old 
man, so it was natural that we should be called on — 
and there was the saving of rent and the good air for 
Kate. So we went. 

"You never knew Joseph Lenman? Well, picture 
to yourself an amoeba, or some primitive organism of 
that sort, under a Titan's microscope. He was large, 
undifferentiated, inert — since I could remember him 
he had done nothing but take his temperature and read 
the Churchman. Oh, and cultivate melons — that was 
his hobby. Not vulgar out-of-door melons — his were 
grown under glass. He had acres of it at Wrenfield — 
his big kitchen-garden was surrounded by blinking 
battalions of greenhouses. And in nearly all of them 
melons were grown: early melons and late, French, 
English, domestic — dwarf melons and monsters: every 
shape, colour and variety. They were petted and nursed 
like children — a staff of trained attendants waited on 
them. I'm not sure they didn't have a doctor to take 
their temperature; at any rate the place was full of 
thermometers. And they didn't sprawl on the ground 
like ordinary melons; they were trained against the 
glass like nectarines, and each melon hung in a net 

[18] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

which sustained its weight and left it free on all sides 
to the sun and air. . . 

'*It used to strike me sometimes that old Lenman 
was just like one of his own melons — the pale-fleshed 
English kind. His life, apathetic and motionless, hung 
in a net of gold, in an equable warm ventilated 
atmosphere, high above earthly worries. The cardinal 
rule of his existence was not to let himself be 'wor- 
ried.' . . I remember his advising me to tiy it myself, 
one day when I spoke to him about Elate's bad health, 
and her need of a change. 'I always make it a rule not 
to let myself worry,' he said complacently. 'It's the 
worst thing for the liver — and you look to me as if you 
had a Uver. Take my advice and be cheerful. You'll 
make yourself happier and others too.' And all he had 
to do was to write a cheque, and send the poor girl off 
for a holiday! 

*'The hardest part of it was that the money half- 
belonged to us already. The old skin-flint only had it 
for life, in trust for us and the others. But his life was a 
good deal sounder than mine or Kate's — and one could 
picture him taking extra care of it for the joke of keep- 
ing us waiting. I always felt that the sight of our hungry 
eyes was a tonic to him. 

''Well, I tried to see if I couldn't reach him through 
his vanity. I flattered him, feigned a passionate interest 
in his melons. And he was taken in, and used to dis- 

[19] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

course on them by the hour. On fine days he was driven 
to the green-houses in his pony-chair, and waddled 
through them, prodding and leering at the fruit, like 
a fat Turk in his seraglio. When he bragged to me of 
the expense of growing them I was reminded of a 
hideous old Lothario bragging of what his pleasures 
cost. And the resemblance was completed by the fact 
that he couldn't eat as much as a mouthful of his 
melons — ^had lived for years on buttermilk and toast. 
*But, after all, it's my only hobby — ^why shouldn't I 
indulge it?' he said sentimentally. As if I'd ever been 
able to indulge any of mine! On the keep of those 
melons Elate and I could have lived like gods. . . 

''One day toward the end of the sununer, when 
Elate was too unwell to drag herself up to the big house, 
she asked me to go and spend the afternoon with cousin 
Joseph. It was a lovely soft September afternoon — a 
day to lie under a Roman stone-pine, with one's eyes 
on the sky, and let the cosmic harmonies rush through 
one. Perhaps the vbion was suggested by the fact that, 
as I entered cousin Joseph's hideous black walnut 
library, I passed one of the under-gardeners, a handsome 
Italian, who dashed out in such a hurry that he nearly 
knocked me down. I remember thinking it qUeer that 
the fellow, whom I had often seen about the melon- 
houses, did not bow to me or even seem to see me. 

"Cousin Joseph sat in his usual seat, behind the 

[20] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

darkened windows, his fat hands folded on his pro- 
tuberant waistcoat, the last number of the Churchman 
at his elbow, and near it, on a huge dish, a melon — 
the fattest melon I'd ever seen. As I looked at it I 
pictured the ecstasy of contemplation from which I 
must have roused him, and congratulated myself on 
finding him in such a mood, since I had made up my 
mind to ask him a favour. Then I noticed that his face, 
instead of looking as calm as an egg-shell, was distorted 
and whimpering — and without stopping to greet me 
he pointed passionately to the melon. 

"'Look at it, look at it — did you ever see such a 
beauty? Such firmness — roundness — ^such delicious 
smoothness to the touch ?' It was as if he had said 'she' 
instead of 'it, ' and when he put out his senile hand and 
touched the melon I positively had to look the other 
way. 

"Then he told me what had happened. The Italian 
under^gardener, who had been specially recommended 
for the melon-houses — ^though it was against my cousin's 
principles to employ a Papist — had been assigned to 
the care of the monster: for it had revealed itself, early 
in its existence, as destined to become a monster, to 
surpass its plumpest pulpiest sisters, carry off prizes 
at agricultural shows, and be photographed and cele- 
brated in every gardening paper in the land. The Italian 
had done well — seemed to have a sense of responsibility. 

121] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

And that very morning he had been ordered to pick the 
melon» which was to be shown next day at the county 
fair, and to bring it in for Mr. Lenman to gaze on its 
blonde viiginity. But in picking it, what had the damned 
scoundrelly Jesuit done but drop it — drop it crash on 
the spout of a watering-pot, so that it received a deep 
gash in its firm pale rotundity, and was henceforth but 
a bruised, ruined, fallen melon? 

"The old man's rage was fearful in its impotence — 
he shook, spluttered and strangled with it. He had just 
had the Italian up and had sacked him on the spot, 
without wages or character — had threatened to have 
him arrested if he was ever caught prowling about 
Wrenfield. 'By God, and I'll do it— I'll write to Wash- 
ington — I'll have the pauper scoundrel deported! I'll 
show him what money can do!' As likely as not there 
was some murderous Blackhand business under it — it 
would be found that the fellow was a member of a 
'gang.' Those Italians would murder you for a quarter. 
He meant to have the police look into it. . . And then 
he grew frightened at his own excitement. 'But I must 
calm myself,' he said. He took his temperature, rang 
for his drops, and turned to the Churchman. He had 
been reading an article on Nestorianism when the 
melon was brought in. He asked me to go on with it, 
and I read to him for an hour, in the dim close room, 
with a fat fly buzzing stealthily about the fallen melon. 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

" AQ the while one phrase of the old man's buzzed in 
my brain like the fly about the melon. *rU show him 
tohcU money candoi* Good heaven! If / could but show 
the old man! If I could make him see his power of 
giving happiness as a new outlet for his monstrous 
^otism! I tried to tell him something about my situa- 
tion and Kate's — ^spoke of my ill-health, my unsuc- 
cessful drudgery, my longing to write, to make myself 
a name — I stammered out an entreaty for a loan. 'I 
can guarantee to repay you, sir — I've a half-written play 
as security. . .' 

"I shall never forget his glassy stare. His face had 
grown as smooth as an egg-shell again — his eyes peered 
over his fat cheeks like sentineb over a slippery ram- 
part. 

"*A half-written play — a play of yours as security?' 
He looked at me almost fearfully, as if detecting the 
first symptoms of insanity. 'Do you understand any- 
thing of business?' he enquired. I laughed and an- 
swered: 'No, not much.' 

"He leaned back with closed lids. 'All this excite- 
ment has been too much for me,' he said. 'If you'll 
excuse me, I'll prepare for my nap.' And I stumbled 
out of the room, blindly, like the Italian." 

Granice moved away from the mantel-piece, and 
walked across to the tray set out with decanters and 
soda-water. He poured himself a tall glass of soda- 

[«S] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

water» emptied it, and glanced at Ascham's dead 
cigar. 

** Better light another," he suggested. 

The lawyer shook his head, and Granice went on 
with his tale. He told of his mounting obsession — ^how 
the murderous impulse had waked in him on the in- 
stant of his cousin's refusal, and he had muttered to 
himself: "By God, if you won't, I'll make you." He 
spoke more tranquilly as the narrative proceeded, as 
though his rage had died down once the resolve to act 
on it was taken. He applied his whole mind to the ques- 
tion of how the old man was to be "disposed of." Sud- 
denly he remembered the outcry : " Those Italians would 
murder you for a quarter! " But no definite project pre- 
sented itself: he simply waited for an inspiration. 

Granice and his sister moved to town a day or two 
afterward. But the cousins, who had returned, kept them 
informed of the old man's condition. One day, about 
three weeks later, Granice, on getting home, found 
Kate excited over a report from Wrenfield. The Italian 
had been there again — ^had somehow slipped into the 
house, made his way up to the library, and "used 
threatening language." The house-keeper found cousin 
Joseph gasping, the whites of his eyes showing 
"something awful." The doctor was sent for, and the 
attack warded off; and the police had ordered the 
Italian from the neighbourhood. 

[84] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

But cousin Joseph, thereafter, languished, had 
''nerves," and lost his taste for toast and buttermilk. 
The doctor called in a colleague, and the consultation 
amused and excited the old man — ^he became once more 
an important figure. The medical men reassured the 
family — ^too completely! — and to the patient they recom- 
mended a more varied diet: advised him to take what- 
ever ''tempted him." And so one day, tremulously, 
prayerfully, he decided on a tiny bit of melon. It was 
brought up with ceremony, and consumed in the pres- 
ence of the house-keeper and a hovering cousin; and 
twenty minutes later he was dead. . . 

"But you remember the circumstances," Granice 
went on; "how suspicion turned at once on the Italian ? 
In spite of the hint the police had given him he had been 
seen hanging about the house since 'the scene.' It was 
said that he had tender relations with the kitchen-maid, 
and the rest seemed easy to explain. But when they 
looked round to ask him for the explanation he was 
gone — gone clean out of sight. He had been 'warned' 
to leave Wrenfield, and he had taken the warning so 
to heart that no one ever laid eyes on him again." 

Granice paused. He had dropped into a chair oppo- 
site the lawyer's, and he sat for a moment, his head 
thrown back, looking about the familiar room. Every- 
thmg in it had grown grimacing and alien, and each 
strange insistent object seemed craning forward from 
its nlace to hear him. 

[25] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

'*It was I who put the stuff in the melon,'' he said. 
"And I don't want you to think I'm sorry for it. This 
isn't 'remorse/ understand. I'm glad the old skin-flint 
is dead — I'm glad the others have their money. But 
mine's no use to me any more. My sister married mis- 
erably, and died. And I've never had what I wanted." 

Ascham continued to stare; then he said: "What on 
earth was your object, then ?" 

"Why, to get what I wanted — ^what I fancied was in 
reach! I wanted change, rest, life, for both of us — 
wanted, above all, for myself, the chance to write! I 
travelled, got back my health, and came home to tie 
myself up to my work. And I've slaved at it steadily 
for ten years without reward — ^without the most distant 
hope of success! Nobody will look at my stuff. And 
now I'm fifty, and I'm beaten, and I know it." His 
chin dropped forward on his breast. "I want to chuck 
the whole business," he ended. 



ra 

It was after midnight when Ascham left. 

His hand on Granice's shoulder, as he turned to 
go — "District Attorney be hanged; see a doctor, see 
a doctor!" he had cried; and so, with an exaggerated 
laugh, had pulled on his coat and departed. 

Granice turned back into the library. It had never 
occurred to him that Ascham would not believe his 

[«6] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

story. For three hours he had explained, elucidated, pa- 
tiently and painfully gone over every detail — but with> 
out once breaking down the iron incredulity of the 
lawyer's eye. 

At first Ascham had feigned to be convinced — ^but 
that, as Granice now perceived, was simply to get him 
to expose himself, to entrap him into contradictions. 
And when the attempt failed, when Granice trium- 
phantly met and refuted each disconcerting question, 
the lawyer dropped the mask, and broke out with 
a good-humoured laugh: *'By Jove, Granice you'll 
write a successful play yet. The way you've worked 
this all out is a marvel." 

Granice swung about furiously — ^that last sneer about 
the play inflamed him. Was all the world in a conspiracy 
to deride his failure ? 

*'I did it, I did it," he muttered, his rage spending 
itself against the impenetrable surface of the other's 
mockery; and Ascham answered with a quieting smile: 
''Ever read any of those books on hallucinations? I've 
got a fairly good medico-legal library. I could send you 
one or two if you like. . •" 

Left alone, Granice cowered down in the chair before 
his writing-table. He understood that Ascham thought 
off his head. 

Good God — ^what if they all think me crazy?" 

[«7] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

The horror of it broke out over hun in a cold sweat 
— he sat there and shook, his eyes hidden in his hands. 
But gradually, as he b^an to rehearse his story for 
the thousandth time, he saw again how incontrovertible 
it was, and felt sure that any criminal lawyer would be- 
lieve him. 

"That's the trouble — Ascham's not a criminal law- 
yer. And then he's a friend. What a fool I was to talk 
to a friend! Even if he did believe me, he'd never let 
me see it — his instinct would be to cover the whole 
thing up. . . But in that case — if he did believe me — he 
might think it a kindness to get me shut up in an asy- 
lum. . ." Granice began to tremble again. "Good 
heaven! If he should bring in an expert — one of those 
damned alienists! Ascham and Pettilow can do any- 
thing — their word always goes. If Ascham drops a hint 
that I'd better be shut up, I'll be in a strait-jacket 
by to-morrow! And he'd do it from the kindest motives 
— ^be quite right to do it if he thinks I'm a murderer!" 

The vision froze him to his chair. He pressed his fists 
to his bursting temples and tried to think. For the first 
time he hoped that Ascham had not believed his story. 

"But he did — he did! I can see it now — ^I noticed 
what a queer eye he cocked at me. Good God, what 
shall I do— what shall I do?" 

He started up and looked at the clock. Half-past 
one. What if Ascham should think the case urgent, 

[«8] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

rout out an alienist, and come back with him ? Granice 
jumped to his feet, and his gesture brushed the morn- 
ing paper from the table. As he stooped to pick it up 
the movement started a new train of association. 

He sat down again, and reached for the telephone 
book in the rack by his chair. 

"Give me three-o-ten . . . yes." 

The new idea in his mind had revived his energy. 
He would act — act at once. It was only by thus 
planning ahead, committing himself to some unavoid- 
able line of conduct, that he could pull himself 
through the meaningless days. Each time he reached 
a fresh decision it was like coming out of a foggy wel- 
tering sea into a calm harbour with lights. One of the 
queerest phases of his long agony was the relief pro- 
duced by these momentary lulls. 

"That the office of the Investigator? Yes? Give 
me Mr. Denver, please. . . Hallo, Denver. . . Yes, Hu- 
bert Granice. . . Just caught you ? Going straight 
home ? Can I come and see you . . . yes, now . . . have 
a talk ? It's rather urgent . . . yes, might give you some 
first-rate * copy.*.. All right!" He hung up the re- 
ceiver with a laugh. It had been a happy thought to 
call up the editor of the Investigator — Robert Denver 
was the very man he needed. . . 

Granice put out the lights in the library — it was 
odd how the automatic gestures persisted! — ^went into 

[29] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

the hall, put on his hat and overcoat, and let him- 
self out of the flat. In the hall, a sleepy elevator boy 
blinked at him and then dropped his head on his arms. 
Granice passed out into the street. At the comer of 
Fifth Avenue he hailed a cab, and called out an 
up-town address. The long thoroughfare stretched 
before him, dim and deserted, like an ancient avenue 
of tombs. But from Denver's house a friendly beam 
fell on the pavement; and as Granice sprang from his 
cab the editor's electric turned the comer. 

The two men grasped hands, and Denver, feeling 
for his latch-key, ushered Granice into the hall. 

^'Disturb me? Not a bit. You might have, at ten to- 
morrow morning . . . but this is my liveliest hour . . . 
you know my habits of old." 

Granice had known Robert Denver for fifteen years 
— ^watched his rise through all the stages of journalism 
to the Olympian pinnacle of the Investigator's editorial 
office. In the thick-set man with grizzling hair there 
were few traces left of the hungry-eyed young reporter 
who, on his way home in the small hours, used to 
"bob in" on Granice, while the latter sat grinding at 
his plays. Denver had to pass Granice's flat on the 
way to his own, and it became a habit, if he saw a 
light in the window, and Granice's shadow against 
the blind, to go in, smoke a pipe, and discuss the 
universe. 

[80] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

"Well — this is like old times — a good old habit re- 
versed." The editor smote his visitor genially on the 
shoulder. "Reminds me of the nights when I used to 
rout you out. . . How's the play, by the way ? There 
is a play, I suppose ? It's as safe to ask you that as to 
say to some men: 'How's the baby?' " 

Denver laughed good-naturedly, and Granice thought 
how thick and heavy he had grown. It was evident, 
even to Granice's tortured nerves, that the words had 
not been uttered in malice — and the fact gave him a 
new measure of his insignificance. Denver did not even 
know that he had been a failure! The fact hurt more 
than Ascham's irony. 

"Come in — come in." The editor led the way into a 
small cheerful room, where there were cigars and de- 
canters. He pushed an arm-chair toward his visitor, 
and dropped into another with a comfortable groan. 

"Now, then — ^help yourself. And let's hear all 
about it." 

He beamed at Granice over his pipe-bowl, and the 
latter, lighting his cigar, said to himself: "Success 
makes men comfortable, but it makes them stupid." 

Then he turned, and began: "Denver, I want to tell 
you " 

The clock ticked rhythmically on the mantel-piece. 
The room was gradually filled with drifting blue 

[SI] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

layers of smoke, and through them the editor's face 
came and went like the moon through a moving sky. 
Once the hour struck — ^then the rhythmical ticking be- 
gan again. The atmosphere grew denser and heavier, 
and beads of perspiration began to roll from Granice*s 
forehead. 

"Do you mind if I open the window?*' 

"No. It is stuffy in here. Wait— I'll do it myself." 
Denver pushed down the upper sash, and returned to 
his chair. "Well — go on," he said, filling another pipe. 
His composure exasperated Granice. 

"There's no use in my going on if you don't be- 
lieve me." 

The editor remained unmoved. "Who says I don't 
believe you? And how can I tell till you've finished ?" 

Granice went on, ashamed of his outburst. " It was 
simple enough, as you'll see. From the day the old 
man said to me * Those Italians would murder you for 
a quarter' I dropped everything and just worked at 
my scheme. It struck me at once that I must find a 
way of getting to Wrenfield and back in a night — ^and 
that led to the idea of a motor. A motor — that never 
occurred to you ? You wonder where I got the money, 
I suppose. Well, I had a thousand or so put by, and I 
nosed around till I found what I wanted — a second- 
hand racer. I knew how to drive a car, and I tried the 
thing and found it was all right. Times were bad, and 

[Si] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

I bought it for my price, and stored it away. Where ? 
Why, in one of those no-questions-asked garages where 
they keep motors that are not for family use. I had a 
lively cousin who had put me up to that dodge, and I 
looked about till I found a queer hole where they took 
in my car like a baby in a foundling asylum. . . Then 
I practised running tp Wrenfield and back in a night. 
I knew the way pretty well, for I'd done it often with 
the same lively cousin — and in the small hours, too. 
The distance is over ninety miles, and on the third 
trial I did it under two hours. But my arms were so 
lame that I could hardly get dressed the next morning. 

'"Well, then came the report about the Italian's 
threats, and I saw I must act. . . I meant to break 
into the old man's room, shoot him, and get away 
again. It was a big risk, but I thought I could man- 
age it. Then we heard that he was ill — that there'd 
been a consultation. Perhaps the fates were going to 
do it for me! Good Lord, if that could only be! . . " 

Granice stopped and wiped his forehead: the open 
window did not seem to have cooled the room. 

''Then came word that he was better; and the day 
after, when I came up from my office, I found Kate 
laughing over the news that he was to try a bit of melon. 
The house-keeper had just telephoned her — all Wren- 
field was in a flutter. The doctor himself had picked 
out the melon, one of the little French ones that are 

[33] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

hardly bigger than a large tomato — and the patient 
was to eat it at his breakfast the next morning. 

'"In a flash I saw my chance. It was a bare chance, 
no more. But I knew the ways of the house — I was 
sure the melon would be brought in over night and 
put in the pantry ice-box. If there were only one 
melon in the ice-box I could be fairly sure it was the 
one I wanted. Melons didn't lie around loose In that 
house — every one was known, numbered, catalogued. 
The old man was beset by the dread that the servants 
would eat them, and he took all sorts of mean precau- 
tions to prevent it. Yes, I felt pretty sure of my melon 
. . . and poisoning was much safer than shooting. It 
would have been the devil and all to get into his bed- 
room without his rousing the house; but I ought to be 
able to break into the pantry without much trouble. 

"It was a cloudy night, too — everjrthing served me. 
I dined quietly, and sat down at my desk. Kate had 
one of her usual headaches, and went to bed early. As 
soon as she was gone I slipped out. I had got together 
a sort of disguise — ^red beard and queer-looking ubter. 
I shoved them into a bag, and went round to the garage. 
There was no one there but a half-drunken machinist 
whom I'd never seen before. That served me, too. They 
were always changing machinists, and this new fellow 
didn't even bother to ask if the car belonged to me. It 
was a very easy-going place. . . 

[S4] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

**WelU I jumped in, ran up Broadway, and let the 
car go as soon as I was out of Harlem. Dark as it was, 
I could trust myself to strike a sharp pace. In the 
shadow of a wood I stopped a second and got into the 
beard and ulster. Then away again — it was just eleven- 
thirty when I got to Wrenfield. 

** I left the car in a lane behind the Lenman place, 
and slipped through the kitchen-garden. The melon- 
houses winked at me through the dark — I remember 

thinking that they knew what I wanted to know 

By the stable a dog came out growling — ^but he nosed 
me out, jumped on me, and went back. . . The house 
was as dark as the grave. I knew everybody went to 
bed by ten. But there might be a prowling servant — 
the kitchen-maid might have come down to let in her 
Italian. I had to risk that, of course. I crept around 
by the back door and hid in the shrubbery. Then I 
listened. It was all as silent as death. I crossed over 
to the house, pried open the pantry window, and 
climbed in. I had a little electric lamp in my pocket, 
and shielding it with my cap I groped my way to the 
ice-box, opened it — and there was the little French 
melon . . . only one. 

"I stopped to listen — I was quite cool. Then I pulled 
out my bottle of stuff and my syringe, and gave each 
section of the melon a hypodermic. It was all done 
inside of three minutes — at ten minutes to twelve I 

[S«] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

was back in the car. I got out of the lane as quietly 
as I could, struck a back road, and let the car out as 
soon as I was beyond the last houses. I only stopped 
once on the way in, to drop the beard and ulster into 
a pond. I had a big stone ready to weight them with 
and they went down plump, like a dead body — ^and at 
two I was back at my desk." 

Granice stopped speaking and looked across the 
smoke-fumes at his listener; but Denver's face re- 
mained inscrutable. 

At length he said: "Why did you want to tell me 
this?" 

The question startled Granice. He was about to 
explain, as he had explained to Ascham; but suddenly 
it occurred to him that if his motive had not seemed 
convincing to the lawyer it would carry much less 
weight with Denver. Both were successful men, and 
success does not understand the subtle agony of failure. 
Granice cast about for another reason. 

"Why, I — ^the thing haunts me . . . remorse, I sup- 
pose you'd call it. . ." 

Denver struck the ashes from his empty pipe. 

"Remorse? Bosh!" he said energetically. 

Granice's heart sank. "You don't believe in — re^ 
morse?" 

"Not an atom: in the man of action. The mere fact 
of your talking of remorse proves to me that you're 

[S6] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

not the man to have planned and put through such a 
job." 

Granioe groaned. "Well — I lied to you about re- 
morse. I*ve never felt any." 

Denver's lips tightened sceptically about his freshly- 
fiUed pipe. *'What toas your motive, then? You must 
have had one." 

"I'll tell you — " And Granice began once more to re- 
hearse the story of hb failure, of his loathing for life. 
''Don't say you don't believe me this time . . . that this 
isn't a real reason!" he stammered out as he ended. 

Denver meditated. "No, I won't say that. I've seen 
too many queer things. There's always a reason for 
wanting to get out of life — ^the wonder is that we find 
so many for staying in!" 

Granice's heart grew light. "Then you do believe 
me?" 

"Believe that you're sick of the job ? Yes. And that 
you haven't the nerve to pull the trigger? Oh, yes — 
that's easy enough, too. But all that doesn't make you 
a murderer — ^though I don't say it proves you could 
never have been one." 

"I have been one, Denver — I swear to you." 

"Perhaps." Again the journalist mused. "Just tell 
me one or two things." 

"Oh, go ahead. You won't stump me!" Granice 
heard himself say with a laugh. 

[87] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 



f(- 



Well — ^how did you make all those trial trips with- 
out exciting your sister's curiosity ? I knew your night 
habits pretty well at that time, remember. You were 
seldom out late. Didn't the change in your ways 
surprise her?" 

"No; because she was away at the time. She went to 
pay several visits in the country after we came back 
from Wrenfield, and had only been in town a night or 
two before — before I did the job.'* 

"And that night she went to bed with a headache?" 

"Yes — blinding. She didn't know anything when she 
had that kind. And her room was at the back of the 
flat." 

There was another pause in Denver's interrogatory. 
"And when you got back — ^she didn't hear you? You 
got in without her knowing it?" 

"Yes. I went straight to my work — ^took it up at the 
word where I'd left oflF — why^ Denver, dorCi you re- 
member?** Granice passionately interjected. 

"Remember ?" 

"Yes; how you found me — ^when you looked in 
that morning, between two and three . . . your usual 
hour..?" 

"Yes," the editor nodded. 

Granice gave a short laugh. "In my old coat — ^with 
my pipe: looked as if I'd been working all night, 
didn't I ? Well, I hadn't been in my chair ten minutes! " 

[38] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

Denver uncrossed his legs and then crossed them 
again. ^'I didn't know whether you remembered that.'* 

"What?'' 

"My coming in that particular night — or morning." 

Granice swung round in his chair. "Why, man alive! 
That's why I'm here now. Because it was you who 
spoke for me at the inquest, when they looked round 
to see what all the old man's heirs had been doing that 
night — you who testified to having dropped in and 
found me at my desk as usual. . . I thought that 
would appeal to your journalistic sense if nothing else 
would!" 

Denver smiled. "Oh, my journalistic sense is still 
susceptible enough — and the idea's picturesque, I grant 
you: asking the man who proved your alibi to establish 
your guilt." 

"That's it— that's it!" Granice's laugh had a ring 
of triumph. 

"Well, but how about the other chap's testimony — 
I mean that young doctor: what was his name? Ned 
Ranney. Don't you remember my testifying that I'd 
met him at the elevated station, and told him I was on 
my way to smoke a pipe with you, and his saying: * All 
right; you'll find him in. I passed the house two hours 
ago, and saw his shadow against the blind, as usual.' 
And the lady with the toothache in the flat across the 
way: she corroborated his statement, you remember." 

[S9] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 



"Yes; I remember." 

"Well, then r 

"Simple enough. Before starting I rigged up a kind 
of mannikin with old coats and a cushion — ^something 
to cast a shadow on the blind. All you fellows were 
used to seeing my shadow there in the small hours — ^I 
counted on that, and knew you'd take any vague out- 
line as mine." 

"Simple enough, as you say. But the woman with the 
toothache saw the shadow move — ^you remember she 
said she saw you sink forward, as if you'd fallen asleep." 

"Yes; and she was right. It did move. I suppose 
some extra-heavy dray must have jolted by the flimsy 
building — ^at any rate, something gave my mannikin a 
jar, and when I came back he had sunk forward, half 
over the table." 

There was a long silence between the two men. 
Granice, with a throbbing heart, watched Denver refill 
his pipe. The editor, at any rate, did not sneer and flout 
him. After all, journalism gave a deeper insight than 
the law into the fantastic possibilities of life, prepared 
one better to allow for the incalculableness of human 
impulses. 

"Well?" Granice faltered out. 

Denver stood up with a shrug. "Look here, man — 
what's wrong with you? Make a clean breast of it! 
Nerves gone to smash? I'd like to take you to see a 

[40 1 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

chap I know — an ex-prize-fighter — who's a wonder at 
pulling fellows in your state out of their hole " 

"Oh, oh — " Granice broke in. He stood up also, 
and the two men eyed each other. "You don't believe 
me, then?" 

"This yam — how can I? There wasn't a flaw in 
your alibi." 

"But haven't I filled it full of them now?" 

Denver shook his head. "I might think so if I hadn't 
happened to know that you wanted to. There's the 
hitch, don't you see?" 

Granice groaned. "No, I didn't. You mean my 
wanting to be found guilty ?" 

"Of course! If somebody else had accused you, the 
story might have been worth looking into. As it is, a 
child could have invented it. It doesn't do much credit 
to your ingenuity." 

Granice turned sullenly toward the door. What was 
the use of aiguing ? But on the threshold a sudden im- 
pulse drew him back. "Look here, Denver — I daresay 
you're right. But will you do just one thing to prove 
it? Put my statement in the Investigator^ just as I've 
made it. Ridicule it as much as you like. Only give the 
other fellows a chance at it — ^men who don't know any- 
thing about me. Set them talking and looking about. 
I don't care a damn whether you believe me — what I 
want is to convince the Grand Jury! I oughtn't to have 

[41] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

come to a man who knows me — your cursed incredulity 
is infectious. I don't put my case well, because I know 
in advance it's discredited, and I almost end by not 
believing it myself. That's why I can't convince you. 
It's a vicious circle." He laid a hand on Denver's arm. 
"Send a stenographer, and put my statement in the 
paper." 

But Denver did not warm to the idea. *'My dear 
fellow, you seem to forget that all the evidence was 
pretty thoroughly sifted at the time, every possible clue 
followed up. The public would have been ready enough 
then to believe that you murdered old Lenman — ^you 
or anybody else. All they wanted was a murderer — ^the 
most improbable would have served. But your alibi 
was too confoundedly complete. And nothing you've 
told me has shaken it." Denver laid his cool hand over 
the other's burning fingers. "Look here, old fellow, go 
home and work up a better case — ^then come in and 
submit it to the Investigator,** 



TV 

The perspiration was rolling off Granice's forehead. 
Every few minutes he had to draw out his handke]> 
chief and wipe the moisture from his face. 

For an hour and a half he had been talking steadily, 
putting his case to the District Attorney. Luckily he 

[4«1 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

had a speaking acquaintance with Allonby, and had 
obtained, without much difficulty, a private audience 
on the very day after his talk with Robert Denver. In 
the interval between he had hurried home, got out of 
his evening clothes, and gone forth again at once into 
the dreary dawn. His fear of Ascham and the alienist 
made it impossible for him to remain in his rooms. 
And it seemed to him that the only way of averting that 
hideous peril was to establish, in some sane impartial 
mind, the proof of his guilt. Even if he had not 
been so incurably sick of life, the electric chair seemed 
now the only alternative to the strait- jacket. 

As he paused to wipe his forehead he saw the Dis- 
trict Attorney glance at his watch. The gesture was 
significant, and Granice lifted an appealing hand. ''I 
don't expect you to believe me now — but can't you put 
me under arrest, and have the thing looked into?" 

Allonby smiled faintly under his heavy grayish mus- 
tache. He had a ruddy face, full and jovial, in which 
his keen professional eyes seemed to keep watch over 
impulses not strictly professional. 

"Well, I don't know that we need lock you up just 
yet. But of course I'm bound to look into your state- 
ment " 

Granice rose with an exquisite sense of relief. Surely 

Allonby wouldn't have said that if he hadn't believed 

him* 

[43] 



/ 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

^'That's all right. Then I needn't detain you. I can 
be found at any time at my apartment." He gave the 
address. 

The District Attorney smiled again, more openly. 
''What do you say to leaving it for an hoqr or two this 
evening ? I'm giving a little supper at Rector's — quiet 
little affair: just Miss Melrose — I thmk you know 
her — and a friend or two; and if you'll join us. . .** 

Granice stumbled out of the office without knowing 
what reply he had made. 

He waited for four days — ^four days of concentrated 
horror. During the first twenty-four hours the fear of 
Ascham's alienist dogged him; and as that subsided, 
it was replaced by the growing conviction that his 
avowal had made no impression on the District Attor- 
ney. Evidently, if he had been going to look into the 
case, Allonby would have been heard from before 
now. . . And that mocking invitation to supper showed 
clearly enough how little the story had impressed him! 
Granice was overcome by the futility of any farther 
attempt to inculpate himself. He was chained to life — 
a "prisoner of consciousness." Where was it he had 
read the phrase ? Well, he was learning what it meant. 
In the long night-hours, when his brain seemed 
ablaze, he was visited by a sense of his fixed identity, 
of his irreducible, inexpugnable selfness, keener, more 

[ 44 ] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

insidious, more unescapable, than any sensation he had 
ever known. He had not guessed that the mind was 
capable of such intricacies of self-realisation, of pene- 
trating so deep into its own dark windings. Often he 
woke from his brief snatches of sleep with the feeling 
that something material was clinging to him, was on 
his hands and face, and in his throat — and as his brain 
cleared he understood that it was the sense of his own 
personality that stuck to him like some thick viscous 
substance. 

Then, in the first morning hours, he would rise and 
look out of his window at the awakening activities of 
the street — at the street-cleaners, the ash-cart drivers,. 
and the other dingy workers flitting by through the 
sallow winter light. Oh, to be one of them — any of 
them — to take his chance in any of their skins! They 
were the toilers — ^the men whose lot was pitied — ^the 
victims wept over and ranted about by altruists and 
economists; and how thankfully he would have taken 
up the load of any one of them, if only he might have 
shaken off his own! But, no — ^the iron circle of con- 
sciousness held them too: each one was hand-cuffed to 
his own detested ego. Why wish to be any one man 
rather than another ? The only absolute good was not 
to be. . . And Flint, coming in to draw his bath, would 
ask if he preferred his eggs scrambled or poached that 

morning? 

[45] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

On the fifth day he wrote a long letter to Allonby; 
and for the succeeding two days he had the occu- 
pation of waiting for an answer. He hardly stirred from 
his rooms in his fear of missing the letter by a mo- 
ment; but would the District Attorney write, or send a 
representative: a policeman, a ''secret agent/' or some 
other mysterious emissary of the law ? 

On the third morning Flint, stepping softly — as if, 
confound it! his master were ill — entered the library 
where Granice sat behind an unread newspaper, and 
proffered a card on a tray. 

Granice read the name — J. B. Hewson — and under- 
neath, in pencil, " From the District Attorney's office." 
He started up with a thumping heart, and signed an 
assent to the servant. 

Mr. Hewson was a sallow nondescript man of about 
fifty — ^the kind of man of whom one is sure to see a 
specimen in any crowd. ''Just the type of the suc- 
cessful detective," Granice reflected as he shook 
hands with his visitor. 

It was in that character that Mr. Hewson briefly 
introduced himself. He had been sent by the District 
Attorney to have "a quiet talk" with Mr. Granice — 
to ask him to repeat the statement he had made about 
the Lenman murder. 

His manner was so quiet, so reasonable and recep- 
tive, that Granice's self-confidence returned. Here was 

[46] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

a sensible man — a man who knew his business — it 
would be easy enough to make him see through that 
ridiculous alibi! Granice offered Mr. Hewson a cigar, 
and lighting one himself — to prove his coolness — began 

again to tell his story. 

He was conscious, as he proceeded, of telling it bet- 
ter than ever before. Practice helped, no doubt; and 
his listener's detached, impartial attitude helped still 
more. He could see that Hewson, at least, had not de- 
cided in advance to disbelieve him, and the sense of 
being trusted made him more lucid and more con- 
secutive. Yes, this time his words would certainly 
convince. . . 



Debpaibinglt, Granice gazed up and down the street. 
Beside him stood a young man with bright promi- 
nent eyes, a smooth but not too smoothly-shaven face, 
and an Irish smile. The young man's nimble glance 
followed Granice's. 

"Sure of the number, are you?" he asked briskly. 

"Oh, yes— it was 104." 

"Well, then, the new building has swallowed it up 
— ^that's certain." 

He tilted his head back and surveyed the half- 
led front of a brick and limestone flat-house that 

[47] 






THE BOLTED DOOR 

reared its flimsy elegance above the adjacent row of 
tottering tenements and stables. 
Dead sure?" he repeated. 

Yes," said Granice, discouraged. "And even if I 
hadn't been, I know the garage was just opposite Lef- 
fler's over there." He pointed across the street to a 
tumble-down building with a blotched sign on which 
the words "Livery and Boarding" were still faintly 
discernible. 

The young man glanced at the stable. "Well, that's 
something — may get a clue there. LeflBer's — same 
name there, anyhow. You remember that name?" 

"Yes— distinctly." 

Granice had felt a return of confidence since he had 
enlisted the interest of the Exphrer^s "smartest" re- 
porter. If there were moments when he hardly believed 
his own story, there were others when it seemed im- 
possible that every one should not believe it; and young 
Peter McCarren, peering, listening, questioning, jot- 
ting down notes, inspired him with new hope. McCarren 
had fastened on the case at once, "like a leech," as he 
phrased it — jumped at it, thrilled to it, and settled 
down to "draw the last drop of fact from it, and not 
let go till he had." No one else had treated Granice 
in that way — even Allonby's detective had not taken a 
single note. And though a week had elapsed since the 
visit of that authorised official, nothing had been heard 

[48] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

from the District Attorney's office: Allonby had ap- 
parently dropped the matter again. But McCarren 
wasn't going to drop it — not he! He hung on Granice's 
footsteps. They had spent the greater part of the 
previous day together, and now they were off again, 
running down fresh clues. 

But at Leffler's they got none, after all. Leffler's was 
no longer a stable. It was condemned to demolition, and 
in the respite between sentence and execution it had 
become a vague place of storage, a hospital for broken- 
down carriages and carts, presided over by a blear-eyed 
old woman who knew nothing of Flood's garage across 
the way — did not even remember what had stood there 
before the new flat-house began to rise. 

*'Well — we may run Leffler down somewhere; I've 
seen harder jobs done," said McCarren, cheerfully not- 
ing down the name. 

As they walked back toward Sixth Avenue he added, 
in a less sanguine tone: '"I'd undertake now to put the 
thing through if you could only put me on the track 
of that cyanide." 

Granice's heart sank. Yes — there was the weak spot; 
he had felt it from the first! But he still hoped to con- 
vince McCarren that his case was strong enough with- 
out it: and he urged the reporter to come back to his 
rooms and sum up the facts with him again. 

"Sorry, Mr. Granice, but I'm due at the office 

[49] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

now. Besides, it'd be no use till I get some fresh stuff to 
work on. Suppose I call you up to-morrow or next 
day?" 

He plunged into a trolley and left Granice gazing 
desolately after him. 

Two days later he reappeared at the apartment, a 
shade less jaunty in demeanour. 

"Well, Mr. Granice, the stars in their courses are 
against you, as the bard says. Can't get a trace of Flood, 
or of Leffler either. And you say you bought the motor 
through Flood, and sold it through him, too ?" 

"Yes," said Granice wearily. 

"Who bought it, do you know ?" 

Granice wrinkled his brows. "Why, Flood — ^yes. 
Flood himself. I sold it back to him three months later." 

"Flood? The devil! And I've ransacked the town 
for Flood. That kind of business disappears as if the 
earth had swallowed it." 

Granice, discouraged, kept silence. 

"That brings us back to the poison," McCarren con- 
tinued, his note-book out. "Just go over that again, 
will you?" 

And Granice went over it again. It had all been so 
simple at the time — and he had been so clever in cover- 
ing up his traces! As soon as he decided on poison he 
looked about for an acquaintance who manufactured 
chemicals; and there was Jim Dawes, a Harvard class- 

[50] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

mate, in the dyeing business — just the man. But at the 
last moment it occurred to him that suspicion might 
turn toward so obvious an opportunity, and he decided 
on a more tortuous course. Another friend, Carrick 
Venn, a student of medicine whose own ill-health had 
kept him from the practice of his profession, amused 
his leisure with experiments in physics, for the exe- 
cution of which he had set up a simple laboratory. 
Granice had the habit of dropping in to smoke a cigar 
with him on Sunday afternoons, and the friends gener- 
ally sat in Venn's work-shop, at the back of the old 
family house in Stuyvesant Square. Off this work-shop 
was the cupboard of supplies, with its row of deadly 
bottles. Carrick Venn was an original, a man of restless 
curious tastes, and his place, on a Sunday, was often 
full of visitors: a cheerful crowd of journalists, scrib- 
blers, painters, experimenters in divers forms of ex- 
pression. Coming and going among so many, it was 
easy enough to pass unperceived; and one afternoon 
Granice, arriving before Venn had returned home, 
found himself alone in the work-shop, and quickly 
slipping into the cupboard, transferred the drug to his 
pocket. 

But that had happened ten years ago; and Venn, poor 
fellow, was long since dead of his dragging ailment. 
His old father was dead, too, the house in Stuyvesant 
Square had been turned into a boarding-house, and 

[51] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

the shifting life of New York had passed its sponge over 
every trace of their history. Even the optimistic M c- 
Carren seemed to acknowledge the hopelessness of 
seeking for proof in that direction. 

**And there's the third door slammed in our faces." 
He shut his note-book, and throwing back his head, 
rested his bright inquisitive eyes on Granice's anxious 
face. 

*'Look here, Mr. Granice — ^you see the weak spot, 
don't you?" 

The other made a despairing motion. *'I see so 

many!'* 

"Yes: but the one that weakens all the others. Why 
the deuce do you want this thing known P Why do you 
want to put your head into the noose ?" 

Granice looked at him hopelessly, trying to take the 
measure of his quick light irreverent mind. No one so 
full of a cheerful animal life would believe in the craving 
for death as a sufficient motive; and Granice racked 
his brain for one mo^ convincing. But suddenly he 
saw the reporter's face soften, and melt to an artless 
sentimentalism. 

"Mr. Granice — ^has the memory of this thing always 
haunted you?" 

Granice stared a moment, and then leapt at the 

opening. "That's it — ^the memory of it . . . always . . ." 

McCarren nodded vehemently. "Dogged your steps, 

[52] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

eh P Wouldn't let you sleep ? The time came when you 
had to make a clean breast of it ?" 

''I had to. Can't you understand ?" 

The reporter struck his fist on the table. *'God, sir I 
I don't suppose there's a human being with a drop of 
warm blood in him that can't picture the deadly horrors 
of remorse " 

The Celtic imagination was aflame, and Granice 
mutely thanked him for the word. What neither Ascham 
nor Denver would accept as a conceivable motive the 
Irish reporter seized on as the most adequate; and, as 
he said, once one could find a convincing motive, the 
difficulties cf the case became so many incentives to 
effort. 

''Remorse — remorse," he repeated, rolling the word 
under hb tongue with an accent that was a clue to the 
psychology of the popular drama; and Granice, per- 
versely, said to himself: ''If I could only have struck 
that note I should have been running in six theatres at 
once." 

He saw that from that moment McCarren's profes- 
sional zeal would be fanned by emotional curiosity; 
and he profited by the fact to propose that they should 
dine together, and go on afterward to some music-hall 
or theatre. It was becoming necessaiy to Granice to 
feel himself an object of pre-occupation, to find himself 
in another mind. He took a kind of gray penumbral 

[53] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

pleasure in riveting McCarren's attention on his case; 
and to feign the grimaces of moral anguish became an 
engrossing game. He had not entered a theatre for 
months; but he sat out the meaningless performance, 
sustained by the sense of the reporter's observation. 

Between the acts M cCarren amused him with anec- 
dotes about the audience: he knew every one by sight, 
and could lift the curtain from each physiognomy. 
Granice listened indulgently. He had lost all interest 
in his kind, but he knew that he was himself the real 
centre of McCarren's attention, and that every word 
the latter spoke had an indirect bearing on his own 
problem. 

"See that fellow over there — ^the little dried-up man 
in the third row, pulling his moustache? His memoirs 
would be worth publishing," McCarren said suddenly 
in the last efUr*ade. 

Granice, following his glance, recognised the detec- 
tive from Allonby's office. For a moment he had the 
thrilling sense that he was being shadowed. 

"Caesar, if ke could talk !" McCarren continued. 

"Know who he is, of course? Dr. John B. Stell, the 
biggest alienist in the country " 

Granice, with a start, bent again between the heads 
in front of him. " That man — ^the fourth from the aisle ? 
You're mistaken. That's not Dr. Stell." 

McCarren laughed. "Well, I guess I've been in court 

[54] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

often enough to know Stall when I see him. He testifies 
in nearly all the big cases where they plead insanity." 

A shiver ran down Granice's spine, but he repeated 
obstinately: "That's not Dr. Stell." 

"Not SteUP Why, man, I know him. Look — heie he 
comes. If it isn't Stell, he won't speak to me." 

The little dried-up man was moving slowly up the 
aisle. As he neared McCarren he made a gesture of 
recognition. 

"How'do, Doctor Stell ? Pretty slim show, ain't it ?" 
the reporter cheerfully flung out at him. And Mr. J. 
B. Hewson, with a nod of assent, passed on. 

Granice sat benumbed. He knew that he had not been 
mistaken — ^the man who had just passed was the same 
man whom Allonby had sent to see him: a physician 
disguised as a detective. Allonby, then, had thought 
him insane, like the others — had r^arded his confes- 
sion as the maundering of a maniac. The discovery 
froze Granice with horror — ^he saw the madhouse 
gaping for him. 

"Isn't there a man a good deal like him — a detective 
named J. B. Hewson?" 

But he knew in advance what McCarren's answer 

would be. "Hewson? J. B. Hewson? Never heard of 

him. But that was J. B. Stell fast enough — I guess he 

can be trusted to know himself, and you saw he 

answered to his name." 

[55] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

VI 

Some days passed before Granice could obtain a word 
with the District Attorney: he began to think that 
Allonby avoided him. 

But when they were face to face Allonby's jovial 
countenance showed no sign of embarrassment. He 
waved his visitor to a chair, and leaned across his desk 
with the encouraging smile of a consulting physician. 

Granice broke out at once: "That detective you sent 
me the other day '* 

Allonby raised a deprecating hand. 

" 1 know: it was Stell the alienist. Why did you 

do that, Allonby?" 

The other's face did not lose its composure. "Be- 
cause I looked up your story first — and there's nothing 
m it. 

Nothing in it?" Granice furiously interposed. 
Absolutely nothing. If there is, why the deuce don't 
you bring me proofs? I know you've been talking to 
Peter Ascham, and to Denver, and to that little ferret 
McCarren of the Explorer. Have any of them been 
able to make out a case for you ? No. Well, what am I 
to do?" 

Granice's lips began to tremble. "Why did you play 
me that trick?" 

"About Stell? I had to, my dear fellow: it's part of 

[56] 



« 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

my business. Stell is a detective, if you come to that — 
every doctor is." 

The trembling of Granice's lips increased, communi- 
cating itself in a long quiver to his facial muscles. He 
forced a laugh through his dry throat. ''Well — and 
what did he detect ?" 

**In you? Oh, he thinks it's overwork — overwork 
and too much smoking. If you look in on him some day 
at his office he'll show you the record of hundreds of 
cases like yours, and tell you what treatment he recom- 
mends. It's one of the conmionest forms of hallucina- 
tion. Have a cigar, all the same." 

"But, Allonby, I killed that man!" 

The District Attorney's leme hand, outstretched on 
his desk, had an almo^ impLptible gesture, and a 
moment later, as if in answer to the call of an electric 
bell, a clerk looked in from the outer office. 

"Sorry, my dear fellow — lot of people waiting. 
Drop in on Stell some morning," Allonby said, shaking 
hands. 

McCarren had to own himself beaten: there was ab- 
solutely no flaw in the alibi. And since his duty to his 
journal obviously forbade his wasting time on insoluble 
mysteries, he ceased to frequent Granice, who dropped 
back into a deeper isolation. For a day or two after his 
Tisit to Allonby he continued to live in dread of Dr. 

[57] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

Stell. Why might not Allonby have deceived him as to 
the alienist's diagnosis? What if he were really being 
shadowed, not by a police agent but by a mad-doctor P 
To have the truth out, he determined to call on Dr. Stell. 

The physician received hun kindly, and reverted 
without embarrassment to their previous meeting. 
*'We have to do that occasionally, Mr. Granice; it's 
one of our methods. And you had given Allonby a 
fright." 

Granice was silent. He would have liked to reaffirm 
his guilt, to produce the fresh aiguments which had 
occurred to him since his last talk with the physician; 
but he feared his eagerness might be taken for a symp- 
tom of derangement, and he affected to smile away 
Dr. Stell's allusion. 

"You think, then, it's a case of brain-fag — ^nothing 
more?" 

"Nothing more. I should advise you to knock off 
tobacco. You smoke a good deal, don't you ?" 

He developed his treatment, reconmiending mas- 
sage, gymnastics, travel, or any form of diversion that 
did not — ^that in short 

Granice interrupted him impatiently. "Oh, I loathe 
all that — and I'm sick of travelling." 

"H'm. Then some laiger interest — politics, reform, 
philanthropy ? Something to take you out of yourself." 

"Yes. I understand," said Granice wearily. 

[58] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

''Above all, don't lose heart. I see hundreds of cases 
like yours/* the doctor added cheerfully from the 
threshold. 

On the doorstep Granice stood still and laughed. 
Hundreds of cases like hb — ^the case of a man who 
had committed a murder, who confessed his guilt, and 
whom no one would believe! Why, there had never 
been a case like it in the world. What a good figure 
Stell would have made in a play: the great alienist who 
couldn't read a man's mind any better than that! 

Granice saw huge comic opportunities in the type. 

But as he walked away, his fears dispelled, the 
sense of listlessness returned on him. For the first time 
since his avowal to Peter Ascham he found himself 
without an occupation, and understood that he had 
been carried through the past weeks only by the neces- 
sity of constant action. Now his life had once more be- 
come a stagnant backwater, and as he stood on the 
street comer watching the tides of traffic sweep by, he 
asked himself despairingly how much longer he could 
endure to float about in the sluggish circle of his con- 
sciousness. 

The thought of -self-destruction came back to him; 
but again his flesh recoiled. He yearned for death 
from other hands, but he could never take it from his 
own. And, aside from his insuperable physical fear, 
another motive restrained him. He was possessed by 

[59] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

the dogged desire to establish the truth of his story. 
He refused to be swept aside as an irresponsible 
dreamer — even if he had to kill himself in the end, he 
would not do so before proving to society that he had 
deserved death from it. 

He began to write long letters to the papers; but 
after the first had been published and commented on, 
public curiosity was queUed by a brief statement from 
the District Attorney's office, and the rest of his com- 
munications remained unprinted. Ascham came to see 
him, and begged him to travel. Robert Denver dropped 
in, and tried to joke him out of his delusion; till Gran- 
ice, mistrustful of their motives, began to dread the 
reappearance of Dr. Stell, and set a guard on hb lips. 
But the words he kept back engendered others and 
still others in his brain. His inner self became a hum- 
ming factory of arguments, and he spent long hours 
reciting and writing down elaborate statements, which 
he constantly retouched and developed. Then his activ- 
ity b^an to languish under the lack of an audience, 
the sense of being buried beneath deepening drifts of 
indifference. In a passion of resentment he swore that 
he would prove himself a murderer, even if he had to 
commit another crime to do it; and for a night or two 
the thought flamed red on his sleeplessness. But day- 
light dispelled it. The determining impulse was lack- 
ing and he hated too promiscuously to choose his 

[60] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

victim. . . So he was thrown back on the struggle to 
impose the truth of his story. As fast as one channel 
dosed on him he tried to pierce another through the 
sliding sands of incredulity. But every issue seemed 
blocked, and the whole human race leagued together 
to cheat one man of the right to die. 

Thus viewed, the situation became so monstrous that 
he lost his last shred of self-restraint in contemplating 
it. What if he were really the victim of some mocking 
experiment, the centre of a ring of holiday-makers jeer- 
ing at a poor creature in its blind dashes against the 
solid walls of consciousness ? But, no — ^men were not so 
uniformly cruel: there were flaws in the close surface 
of their indifference, cracks of weakness and pity here 
and there. . • 

Granice b^an to think that his mistake lay in hav- 
ing appealed to persons more or less familiar with his 
past, and to whom the visible conformities of his life 
seemed a complete disproof of its one fierce secret devia- 
tion. The general tendency was to take for the whole of 
life the slit seen between the blinders of habit: and in 
his walk down that narrow vista Granice cut a correct 
enough figure. To a vision free to follow his whole 
orbit his story would be more intelligible: it would be 
easier to convince a chance idler in the street than the 
trained intelligence hampered by a sense of his ante- 
cedents. This idea shot up in him with the tropic lux* 

[61] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

uriance of each new seed of thought, and he began to 
walk the streets, and to frequent out-of-the-way chop- 
houses and bars in his search for the impartial stranger 
to whom he should disclose himself. 

At first every face looked encouragement; but at the 
crucial moment he always held back. So much was at 
stake, and it was so essential that his first choice should 
be decisive. He dreaded stupidity, timidity, intolerance. 
The imaginative eye, the furrowed brow, were what he 
sought. He must reveal himself only to a heart versed 
in the tortuous motions of the human will; and he 
began to hate the dull benevolence of the average 
face. Once or twice, obscurely, allusively, he made a 
beginning — once sitting down by a man in a base- 
ment chop-house, another day approaching a lounger 
on an east-side wharf. But in both cases the premoni- 
tion of failure checked him on the brink of avowal. 
His dread of being taken for a man in the clutch of a 
fixed idea gave him an abnormal keenness in reading 
the expression of his listeners, and he had provided 
himself in advance with a series of verbal alternatives, 
trap-doors of evasion from the first dart of ridicule 
or suspicion. 

He passed the greater part of the day in the streets, 
coming home at irregular hours, dreading the silence 
and orderliness of his apartment, and the mute 
scrutiny of Flint. His real life was spent in a world 

[62] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

8o remote from this familiar setting that he sometimes 
had the sense of a living metempsychosis, a furtive 
passage from one identity to another — ^yet the other as 
unescapably himself! 

One humiliation he was spared: the desire to live 
never revived in him. Not for a moment was he tempted 
to a shabby pact with existing conditions. He wanted 
to die, wanted it with the fixed unwavering desire 
which alone attains its end. And still the end eluded 
him! It would not always, of course — ^he had full faith 
in the dark star of his destiny. And he could prove it 
best by repeating his story, persistently and indefatiga- 
bly, pouring it into indifferent ears, hammering it into 
dull brains, till at last it kindled a spark, and some one 
of the careless millions paused, listened, believed. . . 

It was a mild March day, and he had been loitering 
on the west-side docks, looking at faces. He was be- 
coming an expert in physiognomies: his eagerness no 
longer made rash darts and awkward recoils. He knew 
now the face he needed, as clearly as if it had come to 
him in a vision; and not till he found it would he 
speak. As he walked eastward through the shabby 
streets he had a premonition that he should find it 
that morning. Perhaps it was the promise of spring 
in the air — certainly he felt calmer than for days. . • 

He turned into Washington Square, struck across it 
obliquely, and walked up University Place. Its hetero- 

[68] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

geneous passers always attracted him — they were less 
hurried than in Broadway, less enclosed and classified 
than in Fifth Avenue. He walked slowly, watching for 
his face. 

At Union Square he had a relapse into discourage- 
ment, like a votary who has watched too long for a 
sign from the altar. Perhaps, after all, he should never 
find his face. . . The air was languid, and he felt 
tired. He walked between the bald grass-plots and the 
twisted trees, making for a seat. Presently he passed 
a bench on which a girl sat alone, and something as 
definite as the twitch of a cord caused him to stop 
before her. He had never dreamed of telling his story 
to a girl, had hardly looked at the women's faces as 
they passed. His case was man's work: how could a 
woman help him ? But this girl's face was extraordinary 
— quiet and wide as an evening sky. It suggested a 
hundred images of space, distance, mystery, like ships 
he had seen, as a boy, berthed by a familiar wharf, 
but with the breath of far seas and strange harbours 
in their shrouds. • . Certainly this girl would under- 
stand. He went up 1o her, lifting his hat, observing 
the forms — ^wishing her to see at once that he was 

a gentleman." 

I am a stranger to you," he began, sitting down 
beside her, ''but your face is so eictremely intelli- 
gent that I feel. . . I feel it is the face I've waited 

[64] 



it 



THE BOLTED DOOR 
for • . . looked for eveiywhere; and I want to tell 



you " 

The girl's eyes widened: she rose to her feet. She 
was escaping him! 

In his dismay he ran a few steps after her, and 
caught her by the arm. 

"Here — ^wait — listen! Oh, don't scream, you fool!" 
he shouted out. 

He felt a hand on his own arm; turned and con- 
fronted a policeman. Instantly he understood that he 
was being arrested, and something hard within him 
was loosened and ran to tears. 

"Ah, you know — ^you know I'm guilty?" 

He was conscious that a crowd was forming, and 
that the girl had disappeared. But what did he care 
about the girl P It was the policeman who had under- 
stood him. He turned and followed, the crowd at his 
heels. . . 

vn 

In the charming place in which he found himself there 
were so many sympathetic faces that he felt more than 
erer convinced of the certainty of making himself heard. 
It was a bad blow, at first, to find that he had not 
been arrested for murder; but Ascham, who had come 
at once, convinced him that he needed rest, and the 
time to "review" his statements; it appeared that reit- 

[65 1 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

eration had made them a little confused and contra- 
dictory. To this end he had readily acquiesced in his 
removal to a lai^ quiet establishment, with an open 
space and trees about it, where he had found a num- 
ber of intelligent companions, some, like himself, en- 
gaged in preparing or reviewing statements of their 
cases, and others ready to lend an attentive ear to his 
own recital. 

For a time he was content to let himself go on the 
current of this new existence; but although his auditors 
gave him for the most part an encouraging attention, 
which, in some, went the length of really brilliant 
and helpful suggestion, he gradually felt a recurrence 
of his doubts. Either his hearers were not sincere, or 
else they had less power to help him than they boasted. 
His endless conferences resulted in nothing, and the 
long rest produced an increased mental lucidity which 
made inaction more and more unbearable. At length 
he discovered that on certain days visitors from the 
outer world were admitted to his retreat; and he wrote 
out long and logically constructed relations of his 
crime, and furtively slipped them into the hands of 
these messengers of hope. 

This gave him a fresh lease of patience, and he now 
lived only to watch for the visitors' days, and scan the 
faces that swept by him like stars seen and lost in the 
rifts of a hunying sky. 

[66] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

Mostly, these faces were strange and less intelligent 
than those of his companions. But they represented 
his last means of access to the world, a kind of sub- 
terranean channel on which he could set his "state- 
ments" afloat, like paper boats which a mysterious 
current might sweep out into the open seas of life. 

One day, however, his attention was arrested by a 
familiar contour, a pair of bright prominent eyes, and 
a chin insufficiently shaved. He sprang up and stood 
in the path of Peter McCarren. 

The journalist looked at him doubtfully, then held 
out his hand with a startled "Why f' 

**You didn't know me? I'm so changed?" Granice 
faltered, feeling the rebound of the other's wonder. 

"Why, no; but you're looking quieter — ^smoothed 
out," McCarren smiled. 

"Yes: that's what I'm here for — ^to rest. And I've 
taken the opportunity to write out a clearer state- 
ment " 

Granice's hand shook so that he could hardly draw 
the paper from his pocket. As he did so he noticed 
that the reporter was accompanied by a tall man with 
compassionate eyes. It came to Granice in a wild thrill 
of conviction that this was the face he had waited for. . . 

"Perhaps your friend — ^he is your friend? — ^would 
glance over it — or I could put the case in a few words 
if you have time ?" Granice's voice shook like his hand. 

[67] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

If this chance escaped him he felt that his last hope 
was gone. McCarren and the stranger looked at each 
other, and the reporter glanced at his watch. 

''I'm sorry we can't stay and talk it over now» Mr. 
Granice; but my friend has an engagement, and we're 
rather pressed " 

Granice continued to proiffer the paper. "I'm sorry — 
I think I could have explained. But you'll take this, at 
any rate?" 

The stranger looked at him gently. ''Certainly — 
I'll take it." He had his hand out. "Good-bye." 

"Good-bye," Granice echoed. 

He stood watching the two men move away from 
him through the long hall; and as he watched them 
a tear ran down his face. But as soon as they were 
out of sight he turned and walked toward his room, 
beginning to hope again, already planning a new state- 
ment. . • 

Outside the building the two men stood still, and the 
journalist's companion looked up curiously at the long 
rows of barred windows. 

"So that was Granice?" 

" Yes — ^that was Granice, poor devil," said McCarren. 

"Strange case! I suppose there's never been one just 
like it ? He*s still absolutely convinced that he oonunitted 
that murder?" 

[68] 



THE BOLTED DOOR 



"Absolutely. Yes." 

The stranger reflected. "And there was no conceiv- 
able ground for the idea ? No one could make out how 
it started ? A quiet conventional sort of fellow like that 
— ^where do you suppose he got such a delusion ? Did 
you ever get the least due to it ?** 

McCarren stood still» his hands in his pockets, his 
head cocked up in contemplation of the windows. Then 
he turned his bright hard gaze on his companion. 

"That was the queer part of it. I've never spoken of 
it — ^but I did get a due." 

"By Jove! That's interesting. What was it?" 

McCarren formed his red lips into a whistle. "Why — 
that it wasn't a delusion." 

He produced his effect — ^the other turned a startled 
glance on him. 

"He murdered the man all right. I tumbled on the 
truth by the merest acddent» when I'd pretty nearly 
chudced the whole job." 

"He murdered him — ^murdered his cousin ?" 

"Sure as you live. Only don't split on me. It's about 
the queerest business I ever ran into — Do about it f 
Why» what was I to do ? I couldn't hang the poor devil, 
could I ? Lord, but I was glad when they collared him, 
and had him stowed away safe in there!" 

The tall man listened with a grave face, grasping 
Granice's statement in his hand. 



THE BOLTED DOOR 

'^Here — ^take this; it makes me sick," he said 
abruptly, thrusting the paper at the reporter; and the 
two men turned and walked in silence to the gates. 



[70] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 



HIS FATHER'S SON 



AFTER his wife's death Mason Grew took the 
momentous step of selling out his business and 
moving from Wingfield» Connecticut, to Brookljm. 

For years he had secretly nursed the hope of such 
a change, but had never dared to suggest it to Mrs. 
Grew, a woman of immutable habits. Mr. Grew him- 
self was attached to Wingfield, where he had grown 
up, prospered, and become what the local press de- 
scribed as ** prominent.'* He was attached to his 
brick house with sandstone trimmings and a cast-iron 
area^railing neatly sanded to match; to the similar 
row of houses across the street, with "trolley" wires 
forming a kind of aerial pathway between, and to the 
vista closed by the sandstone steeple of the church 
which he and his wife had always attended, and where 
their only child had been baptised. 

It was hard to snap all these threads of association, 
yet still harder, now that he was alone, to live so far 
from his boy. Ronald Grew was practising law in New 
York, and there was no more chance of his returning 

[78] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

to live at Wingfield than of a river's flowing inland 
from the sea. Therefore to be near him his father must 
move; and it was characteristic of Mr. Grew, and of 
the situation generally, that the translation, when it 
took place, was to Brooklyn, and not to New York. 

"Why you bury yourself in that hole I can't think," 
had been Ronald's comment; and Mr. Grew simply re- 
plied that rents were lower in Brooklyn, and that he had 
heard of a house there that would suit him. In reality 
he had said to himself — being the only recipient of 
his own confidences — that if he went to New York he 
might be on the boy's mind; whereas, if he lived in 
Brooklyn, Ronald would always have a good excuse 
for not popping over to see him every other day. The 
sociological isolation of Brooklyn, combined with its 
geographical nearness, presented in fact the precise con- 
ditions that Mr. Grew sought. He wanted to be near 
enough to New York to go there often, to feel under 
his feet the same pavement that Ronald trod, to sit 
now and then in the same theatres, and find on his 
breakfast-table the journals which, with increasing 
frequency, inserted Ronald's name in the sacred bounds 
of the society column. It had always been a trial to 
Mr. Grew to have to wait twenty- our hours to read 
that "among those present was Mr. Ronald Grew." 
Now he had it with his colBFee, and left it on the break- 
fast-table to the perusal of a "hired girl" cosmopolitan 

[74] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

enough to do it justice. In such ways Brookljm attested 
the advantages of its nearness to New York» while 
remaining, as regards Ronald's duty to his father, as 
remote and inaccessible as Wingfield. 

It was not that Ronald shirked his filial obligations, 
but rather because of his heavy sense of them, that Mr. 
Grew so persistently sought to minimise and lighten 
them. It was he who insisted, to Ronald, on the im- 
mense difficulty of getting from New York to Brooklyn. 

''Any way you look at it, it makes a big hole in the 
day; and there's not much use in the ragged rim left. 
You say you're dining out next Sunday ? Then I forbid 
you to come over here to lunch. Do you understand 
me, sir? You disobey at the risk of your father's male- 
diction! Where did you say you were dining ? With the 
Waltham Bankshires again? Why, that's the second 
time in three weeks, ain't it ? Big blow-out, I suppose ? 
Gold plate and orchids — opera singers in afterward? 
Well, you'd be in a nice box if there was a fog on the 
river, and you got hung up half-way over. That'd be a 
handsome return for the attention Mrs. Bankshire has 
shown you — singling out a whipper-snapper like you 
twice in three weeks! (What's the daughter's name — 
Daisy?) No, nr — don't you come fooling round here 
next Sunday, or I'll set the dogs on you. And you 
wouldn't find me in anyhow, come to think of it. I'm 
lunching out myself, as it happens — ^yes, sir, lunching 

[76] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

Old. Is there anything especially comic in my lunching 
out ? I don't often do it, you say ? Well, that's no reason 
why I never should., Who with? Why, with — with old 
Dr. Bleaker: Dr. Eliphalet Bleaker. No, you wouldn't 
know about him — he's only an old friend of your 
mother's and mine." 

'^Gradually Ronald's insistence became less difficult 
to overcome. With his customary sweetness and tact 
(as Mr. Grew put it) he began to ''take the hint," to 
give in to "the old gentleman's" growing desire for 
solitude. 

"I'm set in my ways, Ronny, that's about the size 
of it; I like to go tick-ticking along like a clock. I always 
did. And when you come bouncing in I never feel sure 
there's enough for dinner — or that I haven't sent Maria 
out for the evening. And I don't want the neighbours 
to see me opening my own door to my son. That's the 
kind of cringing snob I am. Don't give me away, wiU 
you ? I want 'em to think I keep four or five powdered 
flunkeys in the hall day and night — ^same as the lobby 
of one of those Fifth Avenue hotels. And if you pop 
over when you're not expected, how am I going to keep 
uptheblujff?" 

Ronald yielded after the proper amount of resistance 
— ^his intuitive sense, in every social transaction, of 
the proper amount of force to be expended, was one 
of the qualities his father most admired in him. Mr. 

[76] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

Orew's perceptions in this line were probably more acute 
than his son suspected. The soub of short thick-set men, 
with chubby features, mutton-chop whiskers, and palp 
«yes peering between folds of fat like almond kernels 
in half-split shells — souls thus encased do not reveal 
themselves to the casual scrutiny as delicate emotional 
instruments. But in spite of the disguise in which he 
walked Mr. Grew vibrated exquisitely in response to 
every imaginative appeal; and his son Ronald was al- 
ways stimulating and feeding his imagination. 

Ronald in fact constituted Mr. Grew's one escape 
from the element of mediocrity which had always 
hemmed him in. To a man so enamoured of beauty, 
And so little qualified to add to its sum total, it was 
a wonderful privilege to have bestowed on the world 
such a being. Ronald's resemblance to Mr. Grew's 
early conception of what he himself would have liked 
to look might have put new life into the discredited 
theory of pre-natal influences. At any rate, if the 
young man owed his beauty, his distinction and his 
winning manner to the dreams of one of his parents, 
it was certainly to those of Mr. Grew, who, while out- 
wardly devotiog his life to the manufacture and dis- 
semination of Grew's Secure Suspender Buckle, moved \ 
in an enchanted inward world peopled with all the I 
figures of romance. In this company Mr. Grew cut as / 
brilliant a figure as any of its noble phantoms; and to 

[77] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

see his vision of himself projected on the outer worid 
in the shape of a brilliant popular conquering son» 
seemed, in retrospect, to give to it a belated reality. 
There were even moments when, forgetting his face, 
Mr. Grew said to himself that if he'd had *'half a 
chance" he might have done as well as Ronald; but 
this only fortified his resolve that Ronald should do 
infinitely better. 

Ronald's ability to do well almost equalled his gift 
of looking well. Mr. Grew constantly afiirmed to him- 
self that the boy was *'not a genius"; but, barring this 
slight deficiency, he had almost every gift that a parent 
could wish. Even at Harvard he had managed to be 
several desirable things at once — ^writing poetry in the 
college magazine, playing delightfully "by ear," ac- 
quitting himself creditably of his studies, and yet 
holding his own in the sporting set that formed, as 
it were, the gateway of the temple of Society. Mr. 
Grew's idealism did not preclude the frank desire 
that his son should pass through that gateway; but 
the wish was not prompted by material considerations. 
It was Mr. Grew's notion that, in the rough and 
hurrying current of a new civilisation, the little pools of 
leisure and enjoyment must nurture delicate growths, 
material graces as well as moral refinements, likely to 
be uprooted and swept away by the rush of the main 
torrent. He based his theory on the fact that he had 

[78] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

liked the few ''society'' people he had met — ^had found 
their manners simpler, their voices more agreeable, 
their views more consonant with his own, than those 
of the leading citizens of Wingfield. But then he had 
met veiy few. 

Ronald's sympathies needed no urging in the same 
direction. He took naturally, dauntlessly, to all the 
high and exceptional things about which his father's 
imagination had so long ineffectually hovered — ^from 
the start he vxu what Mr. Grew had dreamed of be- 
ing. And so precise, so detailed, was Mr. Grew's 
vision of his own imaginary career, that as Ronald 
grew up, and began to travel in a widening orbit, his 
father had an almost uncanny sense of the extent to 
which that career was enacting itself before him. At 
Harvard, Ronald had done exactly what the hypothet- 
ical Mason Grew would have done, had not his actual 
self, at the same age, been working his way up in old 
Slagden's button factory — ^the institution which was 
later to acquire fame, and even notoriety, as the birth- 
place of Grew's Secure Suspender Buckle. Afterward, 
at a period when the actual Grew had passed from the 
factory to the bookkeeper's desk, his invisible double 
had been reading law at Columbia — ^precisely again 
what Ronald did! But it was when the young man left 
the paths laid out for him by the parental hand, and 
cast himself boldly on the world, that his adventures 

[79] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

began to bear the most astonishing resemblance to 
those of the unrealised Mason Grew. It was in New 
York that the scene of this hypothetical being's first 
/exploits had always been laid; and it was in New York 
f that Ronald was to achieve his first triumph. There was 
\ nothing small or timid about Mr. Grew's imagination; 
\[t had never stopped at anything between Wingfield 
and the metropolis. And the real Ronald had the 
same cosmic vision as his parent. He brushed aside 
with a contemptuous laugh his mother's entreaty that 
he should stay at Wingfield and continue the dynasty 
of the Grew Suspender Buckle. Mr. Grew knew that 
in reality Ronald winced at the Buckle, loathed it, 
blushed for his connection with it. Yet it was the Buckle 
that had seen him through Groton, Harvard and the 
Law School, and had permitted him to enter the office 
of a distinguished corporation lawyer, instead of being 
enslaved to some sordid business with quick returns. 
The Buckle had been Ronald's fairy god-mother — ^yet 
his father did not blame him for abhorring and dis- 
owning it. Mr. Grew himself often bitterly regretted 
having attached his own name to the Instrument of his 
material success, though, at the time, his doing so had 
been the natural expression of his romanticism. When 
he invented the Buckle, and took out his patent, he 
and his wife both felt that to bestow their name on it 
was like naming a battle-ship or a peak of the Andes. 

[80] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

Mrs. Grew had never learned to know better; but 
Mr. Grew had discovered his error before Ronald was 
out of school. He read it first in a black eye of his boy's. 
Ronald's symmetry had been marred by the insolent 
fist of a fourth former whom he had chastised for al- 
luding to his father as ''Old Buckles"; and when Mr. 
Grew heard the epithet he understood in a flash that 
the Buckle was a thing to blush for. It was too late then 
to dissociate his name from it» or to efface from the 
hoardings of the entire continent the picture of two 
gentlemen, one contorting himself in the abject effort 
to repair a broken brace, while the careless ease of the 
other's attitude proclaimed his trust in the Secure 
Suspender Buckle. These records were indelible, but 
Ronald could at least be spared all direct connection 
with them; and that day Mr. Grew decided that the 
boy should not return to Wingfield. 

"You'U see," he had said to Mrs. Grew, "he'U 
take right hold in New York. Ronald's got my knack 
for taking hold," he added, throwing out his chest. 

''But the way you took hold was in business," ob- 
jected Mrs. Grew, who was large and literal. 

Mr. Grew's chest collapsed, and he became sud- 
denly conscious of his comic face in its rim of sandy 
whisker. "That's not the only way," he said, with 
a touch of wistfulness which escaped hb wife's 
analysis. 

[81] 



HIS FATHER*S SON 

''Well, of course you could have written beauti- 
fully," she rejoined with admiring eyes. 

"Written y Me!" Mr. Grew became sardonic. 

"Why, those letters — ^weren't they beautiful, I'd 
like to know?" 

The couple exchanged a glance, innocently allusive 
and amused on the wife's part, and charged with a 
sudden tragic significance on the husband's. 

"Well, I've got to be going along to the office 
now," he merely said, dragging himself out of his 
chair. 

This had happened while Ronald was still at school; 
and now Mrs. Grew slept in the Wingfield cemetery, 
under a life-size theological virtue of her own choosing, 
and Mr. Grew's prognostications as to Ronald's abil- 
ity to "take right hold " in New York were being more 
and more brilliantly fulfilled. 



n 

Ronald obeyed his father's injunction not to come to 
luncheon on the day of the Bankshires' dinner; but 
in the middle of the following week Mr. Grew was sur- 
prised by a telegram from his son. 

"Want to see you important matter. Expect me to- 
morrow afternoon." 

[82] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

Mr. Grew received the telegram after breakfast. 
To peruse it he had lifted his eye from a paragraph 
of the morning paper describing a fancy-dress dinner 
which the Hamilton Gliddens' had given the night be- 
fore for the house-warming of their new Fifth Avenue 
palace. 

''Among the couples who afterward danced in the 
Poets* Quadrille were Miss Daisy Bankshire» looking 
more than usually lovely as Laura, and Mr. Ronald 
Grew as the young Petrarch." 

Petrarch and Laura! Well — if anything meant any- 
thing, Mr. Grew supposed he knew what that meant. 
For weeks past he had noticed how constantly the 
names of the young people were coupled in the society 
notes he so insatiably devoured. Even the soulless re- 
porter was getting into the habit of uniting them in 
his lists. And this Laura and Petrarch business was 
almost an announcement. . . 

Mr. Grew dropped the telegram, wiped his eye» 
glasses, and re-read the paragraph. "Miss Daisy Bank- 
shire . . . more than usually lovely. . ." Yes; she uxu 
lovely. He had often seen her photograph in the 
papers — seen her represented in every attitude of 
the mundane game: fondling her prize bull-dog, 
taking a fence on her thoroughbred, dancing a gavotte^ 
all patches and plumes, or fingering a guitar, all tulle 
and lilies; and once he had caught a glimpse of her at 

[83] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

the theatre. Hearing that Ronald was going to a fash- 
ionable first-night with the Bankshires, Mr. Grew had 
for once overcome his repugnance to following his son's 
movements, and had secured for himself, under the 
shadow of the balcony, a stall whence he could observe 
the Bankshire box without fear of detection. Ronald 
had never known of his father's presence; and for 
three blessed hours Mr. Grew had watched his boy's 
handsome dark head bent above the fair hair and 
averted shoulder that were all he could catch of Miss 
Bankshire's beauties. 

He recalled the vision now; and with it came, as 
usual, its ghostly double: the vision of his young self 
bending above such a shoulder and such shining hair. 
Needless to say that the real Mason Grew had never 
found himself in so enviable a situation. The late 
Mrs. Grew had no more resembled Miss Daisy Bank- 
shire than he had looked like the happy victorious 
Ronald. And the mystery was that from their dull 
faces, their dull endearments, the miracle of Ronald 
should have sprung. It was almost — ^fantastically — as 
if the boy had been a changeling, child of a Latmian 
night, whom the divine companion of Mr. Grew's early 
reveries had secretly laid in the cradle of the Wingfield 
bedroom while Mr. and Mrs. Grew slept the sleep of 
conjugal indifference. 

The young Mason Grew had not at first accepted thb 

[84] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

astral episode as the complete canoelling of his claims 
on romance. He too had grasped at the high-hung 
glory; and, with his tendency to reach too far when 
he reached at all, had singled out the prettiest girl 
in Wingfield. When he recalled hb stanmiered con- 
fession of love his face still tingled under her cool 
bright stare. His audacity had struck her diunb; and 
when she recovered her voice it was to fling a taunt at 
him. 

"Don't be too discouraged, you know— have you 
ever thought of trying Addie Wicks?" 

All Wingfield would have understood the gibe: 
Addie Wicks was the dullest girl in town. And a year 
later he had married Addie Wicks. . . 

He looked up from the perusal of Ronald's tel^ram 
with this memory in his mind. Now at last his dream 
was coming true! His boy would taste of the joys 
that had mocked his thwarted youth and his dull 
middle-age. And it was fitting that they should be 
realised in Ronald's destiny. Ronald was made to take 
happiness boldly by the hand and lead it home like a 
bride. He had the carriage, the confidence, the high 
faith in his fortune, that compel the wilful stars. And, 
thanks to the Buckle, he would also have the back- 
ground of material elegance that became his conquer- 
ing person. Since Mr. Grew had retired from business 

[86] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

his investments had prospered, and he had been sav- 
ing up his income for just such a purpose. His own 
wants were few: he had brought the Wingfield furni- 
ture to Brooklyn, and his sitting-room was a replica 
of that in which the long years of his married life had 
been spent. Even the florid carpet on which Ronald's 
first footsteps had been taken was carefully matched 
when it became too threadbare. And on the marble 
centre-table, with its beaded cover and bunch of dyed 
pampas grass, lay the illustrated Longfellow and the 
copy of IngersoU's lectures which represented literature 
to Mr. Grew when he had led home his bride. In the 

/"light of Ronald's romance, Mr. Grew found himself 
re-living, with mingled pain and tenderness, all the 

Vpoor prosaic incidents of his own personal history. 
Curiously enough, with this new splendour on them 
they began to emit a faint ray of their own. His wife's 
armchair, in its usual place by the fire, recalled her 

f placid unperceiving presence, seated opposite to him 
during the long drowsy years; and he felt her kindness, 
her equanimity, where formerly he had only ached at 
her obtuseness. And from the chair he glanced up at 
the discoloured photograph on the wall above, with 
a withered laurel wreath suspended on a comer of the 
frame. The photograph represented a young man with 
a poetic necktie and untrammelled hair, leaning against 
a Gothic chair-back, a roll of music in his hand; and 

[86] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

beneath was scrawled a bar of Chopin, with the words: 
''Adieu, AdeUr 

The portrait was that of the great pianist, Fortune 
Dolbrowski; and its presence on the wall of Mr. Grew's 
sitting-room commemorated the only exquisite hour 
of his life save that of Ronald's birth. It was some 
time before the latter event, a few months only after 
Mr. Grew's marriage, that he had [taken his wife 
to New York to hear the great Dolbrowski. Their 
evening had been magically beautiful, and even Addie, 
roused from her usual inexpressiveness, had waked 
into a momentary semblance of life. '"I never — I 

never " she gasped out when they had regained 

their hotel bedroom, and sat staring back entranced at 
the evening's vision. Her large face was pink and 
tremulous, and she sat with her hands on her knees, 
forgetting to roll up her bonnet strings and prepare 
her curl-papers. 

"I'd like to write him just how I felt — I wisht I 
knew how!" she burst out in a final effervescence of 
emotion. 

Her husband lifted his head and looked at her. 

"Would you? I feel that way too," he said with a 
sheepbh laugh. And they continued to stare at each 
other through a transfiguring mist of sound. 

The scene rose before Mr. Grew as he gazed up at 
the pianist's photograph. "Well, I owe her that any- 

[87] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

how — ^poor Addie!'' he said, with a smile at the incon- 
sequences of fate. With Ronald's telegram in his hand 
he was in a mood to count his mercies. 



ni 

"A CLEAR twenty-five thousand a year: that's what you 
can tell 'em with my compliments," said Mr. Grew, 
glancing complacently across the centre-table at his boy. 

It struck him that Ronald's gift for looking his part 
in life had never so completely expressed itself. Other 
young men, at such a moment, would have been red, 
damp, tight about the collar; but Ronald's cheek was 
a shade paler, and the contrast made his dark eyes 
more expressive. 

"A clear twenty-five thousand; yes, sir — ^that's what 
I always meant you to have." 

Mr. Grew leaned carelessly back, his hands thrust 
in his pockets, as though to divert attention from the 
agitation of his features. He had often pictured him- 
self rolling out that phrase to Ronald, and now that 
it was on his lips he could not control their tremor. 

Ronald listened in silence, lifting a hand to his slight 
moustache, as though he, too, wished to hide some 
involuntary betrayal of emotion. At first Mr. Grew 
took his silence for an expression of gratified surprise; 
but as it prolonged itself it became less easy to interpret. 

[88] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

here, my boy; did you expect more? Isn't it 
enough?" Mr. Grew cleared his throat. ''Do they 
expect more?" he asked nervously. He was hardly 
able to face the pain of inflicting a disappointment on 
Ronald at the very moment when he had counted on 
putting the final touch to his bliss. 

Ronald moved uneasily in his chair and his eyes 
wandered upward to the laurel-wreathed photograph 
of the pianist. 

**Is it the money, Ronald? Speak out, my boy. 
We'll see, we'll look round — I'll manage somehow." 

"No, no," the young man interrupted, abruptly 
raising his hand as though to check his father. 

Mr. Grew recovered his cheerfulness. "Well, what's 
the trouble then, if she*8 willing ? " 

Ronald shifted his position again and finally rose 
from his seat and wandered across the room. 

"Father," he said, coming back, "there's something 
I've got to tell you. I can't take your money." 

Mr. Grew sat speechless a moment, staring blankly 
at his son; then he emitted a laugh. "My money? 
What are you talking about? What's this about my 
money? Why, it ain't mine^ Ronny; it's all yours 
— cveiy cent of it!" 

The young man met his tender look with a gesture 
of tragic refusal. 

"No, no, it's not mine — ^not even in the sense you 

[89] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

mean. Not in any sense. Can*t you understand my 
feeling so?** 

'"Feeling so? I don*t know how you're feeling. I 
don*t know what you*re talking about. Are you too 
proud to touch any money you haven't earned? Is 
that what you're trying to tell me?" 

"No. It's not that. You must know " 

Mr. Grew flushed to the rim of his bristling whis- 
kers. "Know? Know what? Can't you speak out?" 

Ronald hesitated, and the two faced each other for a 
long strained moment, during which Mr. Giew's con- 
gested countenance grew gradually pale again. 

"What's the meaning of this? Is it because you've 
done something . . . something you're ashamed of . . . 
ashamed to tell me?" he gasped; and walking around 
the table he laid his hand gently on his son's shoulder. 
"There's nothing you can't tell me, my boy." 

" It's not that. Why do you make it so hard for me ? " 
Ronald broke out with passion. "You must have 
known this was sure to happen sooner or later." 

"Happen ? What was sure to hap ?" Mr. Grew's 

question wavered on his lip and passed into a tremu- 
lous laugh. "Is it something Pve done that you don't 
approve of ? Is it — is it the Buckle you're ashamed of, 
Ronald Grew?" 

Ronald laughed too, impatiently. "The Buckle? 
No, I'm not ashamed of the Buckle; not any more 

[90] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

tban you are/* he returned with a flush. '^But I'm 
ashamed of all I owe to it — all I owe to you — ^when — 

when " He broke off and took a few distracted 

steps across the room. *'You might make this easier 
for me," lie protested, turning back to his father. 

** Make what easier ? I know less and less what you're 
driving at," Mr. Grew groaned. 

Ronald's walk had once more brought him beneath 
the phot(^raph on the wall. He lifted his head for a 
moment and looked at it; then he looked again at Mr. 
Grew. 

"Do you suppose I haven't always known?" 

"Known ?" 

"Even before you gave me those letters at the time of 
my mother's death — even before that, I suspected. I 
don't know how it began . . . perhaps from little things 
you let drop . . • you and she . . . and resemblances that 
I oouldn't help seeing ... in myself . . . How on earth 
oould you suppose I shovldnH guess? 1 always thought 
you gave me the letters as a way of telling me " 

Mr. Grew rose slowly from his chair. "The letters? 
Do you mean Dolbrowski's letters?" 

Ronald nodded with white lips. "You must remem- 
ber giving them to me the day after the funeral." 

Mr. Grew nodded back. "Of course. I wanted you 
to have everything your mother valued." 

"Well— how could I help knowing after that?" 

[91] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

'* Knowing whaif** Mr. Grew stood staring help- 
lessly at his son. Suddenly his look caught at a clue 
that seemed to confront it with a deeper difficulty. 
** You thought — ^you thought those letters . . . Dol- 
browski's letters . . . you thought they meant . . ." 

*'Oh, it wasn't only the letters. There were so many 
other signs. My love of music — ^my — ^all my feelings 
about life . . . and art. . . And when you gave me the 
letters I thought you must mean me to know." 

Mr. Grew had grown quiet. His lips were firm, and 
his small eyes looked out steadily from their creased 
lids. 

"To know that you were Fortune Dolbrowski's 
son?" 

Ronald made a mute sign of assent. 

"I see. And what did you intend to do ?" 

"I meant to wait till I could earn my living, and 
then repay you ... as far as I can ever repay you. . . 
for what you'd spent on me. , . But now that there's a 
chance of my marrying . . . and that your generosity 
overwhelms me . . . I'm obliged to speak." 

"I see," said Mr. Grew again. He let himself down 
into his chair, looking steadily and not unkindly at 
the young man. "Sit down too, Ronald. Let's talk." 

Ronald made a protesting movement. "Is anything 
to be gained by it? You can't change me — change 
what I feel. The reading of those letters transformed 

[9«1 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

my whole life — I was a boy till then: they made a man 
of me. From that moment I understood myself/' He 
paused, and then looked up at Mr. Grew's face. 
" Don't imagine that I don't appreciate your kindness — 
your extraordinary generosity. But I can't go through 
life in disguise. And I want you to know that I have 
not won Daisy under false pretences " 

Mr. Grew started up with the first expletive Ronald 
had ever heard on hb lips. 

"You damned young fool, you, you haven't (old 
her ?" 

Ronald raised his head with pride. "Oh, you don't 
know her, sir! She thinks no worse of me for knowing 
my secret. She is above and beyond all such conven- 
tional prejudices. She's proud of my parentage — " he 
straightened his slim young shoulders — "as I'm proud 
of it . . . yes, sir, proud of it. . ." 

Mr. Grew sank back into his seat with a dry laugh. 
"Well, you ought to be. You come of good stock. 
And you're your father's son, every inch of you!" He 
laughed again, as though the humour of the situation 
grew on him with its closer contemplation. 

"Yes, I've always felt that," Ronald murmured, 
gravely. 

"Your father's son, and no mistake." Mr. Grew 
leaned forward. "You're the son of as big a fool as 
yourself. And here he sits, Ronald Grew! " 

[9S] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

The young man's colour deepened to crimson; but 
his reply was checked by Mr. Grew's decisive gesture. 
''Here he sits, with all your young nonsense still alive 
in him. Don't you b^in to see the likeness? If you 
don't I'll tell you the story of those letters." 

Ronald stared. ''What do you mean? Don't they 
tell their own story?" 

"I supposed they did when I gave them to you; but 
you've given it a twist that needs straightening out." 
Mr. Grew squared his elbows on the table, and looked 
at the young man across the gift-books and dyed pam- 
pas grass. "I wrote all the letters that Dolbrowski 
answered." 

Ronald gave back his look in frowning perplexity. 
" You wrote them ? I don't understand. His letters are 
all addressed to my mother." 

"Yes. And he thought he was corresponding with 
her." 

"But my mother — what did she think?" 

Mr. Grew hesitated, puckering his thick lids. "Well, 
I guess she kinder thought it was a joke. Your mother 
didn't think about things much." 

Ronald continued to bend a puzzled frown on the 
question. "I don't understand," he reiterated. 

Mr. Grew cleared his throat with a nervous laugh. 
"Well, I don't know as you ever will — quUe. But this 
is the way it came about. I had a toughish time of it 

[94] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

when I was young. Oh, I don't mean so much the fight 
I had to put up to make my way — ^there was always 
plenty of fight in me. But inside of myself it was kinder 
lonesome. And the outside didn't attract callers." He 
laughed again, with an apologetic gesture toward his 
broad blinking face. "When I went round with the 
other young fellows I was always the forlorn hope — 
the one that had to eat the drumsticks and dance with 
the left-overs. As sure as there was a blighter at a pic- 
nic I had to swing her, and feed her, and drive her 
home. And all the time I was mad after all the things 
you've got — ^poetry and music and all the joy-forever 
business. So there were the pair of us — ^my face and 
my imagination — chained together, and fighting, and 
hating each other like poison. 

''Then your mother came along and took pity on 
me. It sets up a gawky fellow to find a girl who ain't 
ashamed to be seen walking with him Sundays. And 
I was grateful to your mother, and we got along first- 
rate. Only I couldn't say things to her — and she couldn't 
answer. Well — one day, a few months after we were 
married, Dolbrowsld came to New York, and the 
whole place went wild about him. I'd never heard any 
good music, but I'd always had an inkling of what it 
must be like, though I couldn't tell you to this day how 
I knew. Well, your mother read about him in the papers 
too, and she thought it'd be the swagger thing to go 

[96] 






HIS FATHER'S SON 

to New York and hear him play — ^so we went. . . I'll 
never forget that evening. Your mother wasn't easily 
stirred up — she never seemed to need to let oflF steam. 
But that night she seemed to understand the way I felt. 
And when we got back to the hotel she said to me: 
'I'd like to tell him how I feel. I'd like to sit right down 
and write to him.' 

Would you?' I said. 'So would I.' 
There was paper and pens there before us, and I 
pulled a sheet toward me, and began to write. *Is this 
what you'd like to say to him?' I asked her when the 
letter was done. And she got pink and said: 'I don't 
understand it, but it's lovely.' And she copied it out 
and signed her name to it, and sent it." 

Mr. Grew paused, and Ronald sat silent, with lowered 
eyes. 

"That's how it began; and that's where I thought 
it would end. But it didn't, because Dolbrowski an- 
swered. His first letter was dated January 10, 1872. 
I guess you'll find I'm correct. Well, I went back to 
hear him again, and I wrote him after the performance, 
and he answered again. And after that we kept it up for 
six months. Your mother always copied the letters and 
signed them. She seemed to think it was a kinder joke, 
and she was proud of his answering my letters. But 
she never went back to New York to hear him, though 
I saved up enough to give her the treat again. She was 

[96] 



HIS FATHER'S SON 

too lazy, and she let me go without her. I heard him 
three times in New York; and in the spring he came to 
Wingfield and played once at the Academy. Your 
mother was sick and couldn't go; so I went alone. 
After the performance I meant to get one of the direc- 
tors to take me in to see him; but when the time came, 
I just went back home and wrote to him instead. And 
the month after, before he went back to Europe, he 
sent your mother a last little note, and that picture 
hanging up there. . ." 

Mr. Grew paused again, and both men lifted their 
eyes to the phott^raph. 

Is that all?" Ronald slowly asked. 

That's all— every bit of it," said Mr. Grew. 

"And my mother — my mother never even spoke to 
Dolbrowski?" 

"Never. She never even saw him but that once in 
New York at his concert." 

The blood crept again to Ronald's face. "Are you 
sure of that, sir?" he asked in a trembling voice. 

"Sure as I am that I'm sitting here. Why, she was 
too lazy to look at his letters after the first novelty wore 
off. She copied the answers just to humour me — ^but she 
always said she couldn't understand what we wrote." 

"But how could you go on with such a coirespond- 
enoe ? It's incredible ! " / 

Mr. Grew looked at his son thoughtfully. "I suppose 

[97] 






HIS FATHER'S SON 

it is, to you. You've only had to put out your hand and 
get the things I was starving for — music, and good talk, 
and ideas. Those letters gave me all that. You've read 
them, and you know that Dolbrowski was not only a 
great musician but a great man. There was nothing 
beautiful he didn't see, nothing fine he didn't feel. 
For six months I breathed his ur, and I've lived on it 
ever since. Do you be^ to understand a little now?" 

"Yes — a little. But why write in my mother's name? 
Whymake it appear like asentimental correspondence ?" 

Mr. Grew reddened to his bald temples. "Why, I 
tell you it began that way, as a kinder joke. And when 
I saw that the first letter pleased and interested him, 
I was afraid to tell him — I cotMn't tell him. Do you 
suppose he'd gone on writing if he'd ever seen me, 
Ronny?" 

Ronald suddenly looked at him with new eyes. "But 
he must have thought your letters very beautiful — to 
go on as he did," he broke out. 

"Well — I did my best," said Mr. Grew modestly. 

Ronald pursued his idea. "Where are all your letters, 
I wonder F Weren't they returned to you at his death 7 " 

Mr. Grew laughed. "Lord, no. I guess he had 
trunks and trunks full of better ones. I guess Queens 
and Empresses wrote to him." 

"I should have liked to see your letters," the young 
man insisted. 



HIS FATHER'S SON 






Well, they weren't bad," said Mr. Grew drily. 

But I'll tell you one thing, Ronny," he added. 
Ronald raised his head with a quick glance, and 
Mr. Grew continued: "I'll tell you where the best of 
those letters is — it's in you. If it hadn't been for that 
one look at life I couldn't have made you what you are. 
Oh, I know you've done a good deal of your own making 
— ^but I've been there behind you all the time. And you'll 
never know the work I've spared you and the time I've 
saved you. Fortune Dolbrowski helped me do that. 
I never saw things in little again after I'd looked at 'em 
with him. And I tried to give you the big view from the 
start. . . So that's what became of my letters." 

Mr. Grew paused, and for a long time Ronald sat 
motionless, his elbows on the table, his face dropped on 
his hands. 

Suddenly Mr. Grew's touch fell on his shoulder. 

"Look at here, Ronald Grew — do you want me to 
tell you how you're feeling at this minute ? Just a mite 
let down, after all, at the idea that you ain't the roman- 
tic figure you'd got to think yourself. . . Well, that's 
natural enough, too; but I'll tell you what it proves. It 
proves you're my son right enough, if any more proof 
was needed. For it's just the kind of fool nonsense I 
used to feel at your age — and if there's anybody here 
to laugh at it's myself, and not you. And you can laugh 

at me just as much as you like " 

[99] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 



i« 



THE DAUNT DIANA 



"XT THAT'S become of the Daunt Diana? You 
V V mean to say you never heard the sequel ?" 
Ringham Finney threw himself back into his chair 
with the smile of the collector who has a good thing 
to show. He knew he had a good listener, at any rate. 
I don't think much of Ringham's snuff-boxes, but his 
anecdotes are usually worth while. He's a psychologist 
astray among bibelots, and the best bits he brings back 
from his raids on Christie's and the Hotel Drouot are 
the fragments of human nature he picks up on those 
historic battle-fields. If his^tV in enamel had been half 
as good we should have heard of the Finney collection 
by this time. 

He really has — queer fatuous investigator! — an un- 
usually sensitive touch for the human texture, and the 
specimens he gathers into his museum of memories 
have almost always some mark of the rare and chosen. 
I felt, therefore, that I was really to be congratulated 
on the fact that I didn't know what had become of the 
Daunt Diana, and on having before me a long evening 

[lOS] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

in which to learn. I had just led my friend back, after 
an excellent dinner at Foyot's, to the shabby pleasant 
sitting-room of my Rive Oauche hotel; and I knew 
that, once I had settled him in a good arm-chair, and 
put a box of cigars at his elbow, I could trust him not 
to budge till I had the story. 



n 

You remember old Neave, of course ? Little Humphrey 
Neave, I mean. We used to see him pottering about 
Rome years ago. He lived in two rooms over a wine 
shop, on polenta and lentils, and prowled among the 
refuse of the Ripetta whenever he had a few coppers 
to spend. But you've been out of the collector's world 
for so long that you may not know what happened to 
him afterward. . . 

He was always a queer chap, Neave; years older than 
you and me, of course — and even when I first knew 
him, in my raw Roman days, he produced on me an 
unusual impression of age and experience. I don't 
think I've ever known any one who was at once so 
intelligent and so simple. It's the precise combination 
that results in romance; and poor little Neave was 
romantic. 

He told me once how he'd come to Rome. He was 
originaire of Mystic, Connecticut — ^and he wanted to 

[104] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

get as far away from it as possible. Rome seemed as 
far as anything on the same planet could be; and after 
he'd worried his way through Harvard — with shifts 
and shavings that you and I can't imagine — ^he con- 
trived to be sent to Switzerland as tutor to a chap 
who'd failed in his examinations. With only the Alps 
between, he wasn't likely to turn back; and he got 
another fellow to take his pupil home, and struck out 
on foot for the seven hills. 

I'm telling you these early detals merely to give 
you a notion of the man. There was a cool per- 
sistency and a head-long courage in his dash for Rome 
that one wouldn't have guessed in the pottering chap 
we used to know. Once on the spot, he got more 
tutoring, managed to make himself a name for coaxing 
balky youths to take their fences, and was finally able 
to take up the more congenial task of expounding "the 
antiquities" to cultured travellers. I call it more con- 
genial — but how it must have seared his soul! Fancy 
unveiling the sacred scars of Time to ladies who murmur : 
"Was this actually the spot — ?" while they absently 
feel for their hat-pins! He used to say that nothing 
kept him at it but the exquisite thought of accumulating 
the lire for his collection. For the Neave collection, my 
dear fellow, b^an early, b^an almost with his Roman 
life, b^an in a series of little nameless odds and ends, 
broken trinkets, torn embroideries, the amputated ex- 

[ 105] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

tremities of maimed marbles: things that even the rag- 
picker had pitched away when he sifted his haul. But 
they weren't nameless or meaningless to Neave; his 
strength lay in his instinct for identifying, putting to- 
gether, seeing significant relations. He was a regular 
Cuvier of bric-a-brac. And during those early years, 
when he had time to brood over trifles and note im- 
perceptible differences, he gradually sharpened his 
instinct, and made it into the delicate and redoubtable 
instrument it is. Before he had a thousand francs' worth 
of anticaglie to his name he began to be known as an 
expert, and the big dealers were glad to consult him. 
But we're getting no nearer the Daunt Diana. . . 

Well, some fifteen years ago, in London, I ran across 
Neave at Christie's. He was the same little man we'd 
known, effaced, bleached, indistinct, like a poor '* im- 
pression" — as unnoticeable as one of his own early 
finds, yet, like them, with a quality, if one had an eye 
for it. He told me he s!ill lived in Rome, and had 
contrived, by persistent self-denial, to get a few bits 
together — ** piecemeal, little by little, with fasting and 
prayer; and I mean the fasting literally!" he said. 

He had run over to London for his annual 'Mook- 
round" — ^I fancy one or another of the big collectors 
usually paid his journey — and when we met he was on 
his way to see the Daunt collection. You know old 
Daunt was a surly brute, and the things weren't easily 

[ 106] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

seen; but he had heard Neave was in London, and had 
sent — ^yes, actually sent! — ^for hun to come and give 
his opinion on a few bits, including the Diana. The 
little man bore himself discreetly, but you can imagine 
how proud he was! In his exultation he asked me to 
come with him — "Oh, I've the grandes et petUea en- 
ireesy my dear fellow: IVe made my conditions — " and 
so it happened that I saw the first meeting between 
Humphrey Neave and his fate. 

For that collection w€L8 his fate: or, one may say, it 
was embodied in the Diana who was queen and god- 
dess of the realm. Yes — I shall always be glad I was 
with Neave when he had his first look at the Diana. 
I see him now, blinking at her through his white lashes, 
and stroking his wisp of a moustache to hide a twitch 
of the muscles. It was all very quiet, but it was the 
cowp de fovdre, I could see that by the way his hands 
worked when he turned away and b^an to examine 
the other things. You remember Neave*s hands — 
thin and dry, with long inquisitive fingers thrown out 
like antennse ? Whatever they hold — bronze or lace, 
enamel or glass — they seem to acquire the very texture 
of the thing, and to draw out of it, by every finger-tip, 
the essence it has secreted. Well, that day, as he moved 
about among Daunt's treasures, the Diana followed 
him everywhere. He didn't ook back at her — ^he gave 
himself to the business he was there for — but whatever 

[107] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

he touched, he felt her. And on the threshold he turned 
and gave her his first free look — the kind of look that 
says: " YouWe mine.** 

It amused me at the time — ^the idea of little Neave 
making eyes at any of Daunt's belongings. He might 
as well have coquetted with the Kohinoor. And the 
same idea seemed to strike him; for as we turned away 
from the big house in Belgravia he glanced up at it 
and said, with a bitterness I'd never heard in him: 
** Good Lord ! To think of that lumpy fool having those 
things to handle! Did you notice his stupid stumps of 
fingers? I suppose he blunted them gouging nuggets, 
out of gold fields. And in exchange for the nuggets 
he gets all that in a year — only has to hold out his 
callous palm to have that ripe sphere of beauty drop 
into it! That's my idea of heaven — ^to have a great 
collection drop into one's hand, as success, or love, or 
any of the big shining things, suddenly drop on some 
men. And I've had to worry along for nearly fifty years, 
saving and paring, and haggling and managing, to get 
here a bit and there a bit — and not one perfection in the 
lot! It's enough to poison a man's life." 

The outbreak was so unlike Neave that I remember 
every word of it: remember, too, saying in answer: 
"But, look here, Neave, you wouldn't take Daunt's 
hands for yours, I imagine?" 

He stared a moment and smiled. '*Have all that, and 

[108] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

grope my way through it like a blind cave fish ? What 
a question! But the sense that it's always the blind fish 
that live in that kind of aquarium is what makes 
anarchists, sir!" He looked back from the comer of 
the square, where we had paused while he delivered 
himself of this remarkable metaphor. *^God, I'd like to 
throw a bomb at that place, and be in at the looting!" 

And with that, on the way home, he unpacked his 
grievance — ^pulled the bandage off the wound, and 
showed me the ugly mark it made on his little white 
soul. 

It wasn't the struggling, screwing, stinting, self-deny- 
ing that galled him — it was the smallness of the result. 
It was, in short, the old tragedy of the discrepancy be- 
tween a man's wants and his power to gratify them. 
Neave's taste was too fine for his means — ^was like 
some strange, delicate, capricious animal, that he cher- 
ished and pampered and couldn't satisfy. 

^' Don't you know those little glittering lizards that 
die if they're not fed on some rare tropical fly ? Well, 
my taste's like that, with one important difference — 
if it doesn't get its fly, it simply turns and feeds on me. 
Oh, it doesn't die, my taste — ^worse luck! It gets larger 
and stronger and more fastidious, and takes a bigger 
bite of me— that's all." 

That was all. Year by year, day by day, he had made 
himself into this delicate roister of perceptions and 

[109] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

sensations — as far above the ordinaiy human faculty 
of appreciation as some scientific registering instrument 
is beyond the rough human senses — only to find that 
the beauty which alone could satisfy him was unattain- 
able, that he was never to know the last deep identifi- 
cation which only possession can give. He had trained 
himself, in short, to feel, in the rare great thing— such an 
utterance of beauty as the Daunt Diana, say — a hun- 
dred elements of perfection, a hundred reaaona why, 
imperceptible, inexplicable even, to the average '* artis- 
tic" sense; he had reached this point by a long proc- 
ess of discrimination and rejection, the renewed great 
refusals of the intelligence which perpetually asks 
more, which will make no pact with its self of yester- 
day, and is never to be b^uiled from its purpose by 
the wiles of the next-best-thing. Oh, it*s a poignant 
case, but not a conmion one; for the next-best-thing 
usually wins. . . 

You see, the worst of Neave*s state was the fact of 
his not being a mere collector, even the collector 
raised to his highest pitch. The whole thing was 
blent in him with poetiy — ^his imagination had roman- 
ticised the acquisitive instinct, as the religious feeling 
of the Middle Ages turned passion into love. And 
yet his could never be the abstract enjojonent of the 
philosopher who says: ''This or that object is really 
mine because I'm capable of appreciating it." Neave 

[110] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

wanied what he appreciated — ^wanted it with his touch 
and his sight as well as with his brain. 

It was hardly a year afterward that, coming back from 
a long tour in India, I picked up a London paper and 
read the amazing headline: "Mr. Humphrey Neave 
buys the Daunt collection. . . " I rubbed my eyes and 
read again. Yes, it could only be our old friend Hum- 
phrey. "An American living in Rome . . . one of our 
most discerning collectors"; there was no mistaking 
the description. I bolted out to see the first dealer I 
could find, and there I had the incredible details. 
Neave had come into a fortune — ^two or three million 
dollars, amassed by an uncle who had a corset-factory, 
and who had attained wealth as the creator of the 
Mystic Super-straight. (Corset-factory sounds odd, by 
the way, doesn't it? One had fancied that the corset 
was a personal, a highly specialised garment, more or 
less shaped on the form it was o modify; but, after 
all, the Tanagras were all made from two or three 
moulds — and so, I suppose, are the ladies who wear 
the Mystic Super-straight.) 

The uncle had a son, and Neave had never dreamed 
of seeing a penny of the money; but the son died sud- 
denly, and the father followed, leaving a codicil that 
gave eveiything to our friend. Humphrey had to go 
out to "realise" on the corset-factoiy; and his descrip- 

[111] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

tion of ihat . . ! Well, he came back with his money 
in his pocket, and the day he landed old Daunt wait 
to smash. It all fitted in like a puzzle. I believe Neave 
drove straight from Euston to Daunt House: at any 
rate, within two months the collection was his, and at 
a price that made the trade sit up. Trust old Daunt 
for that! 

I was in Rome the following spring, and you'd better 
believe I looked him up. A big porter glared at me 
from the door of the Palazzo Neave: I had almost to 
produce my passport to get in. But that wasn't Neave's 
fault — ^the poor fellow was so beset by people clamour- 
ing to see his collection that he had to barricade him- 
self, literally. When I had mounted the state Scalane^ 
and come on him, at the end of half a dozen echoing 
saloons, in the farthest, smallest reduU of the suite, I re- 
ceived the same welcome that he used to give us in his 
den over the wine shop. 

"Well— so you've got her?" I said. For I'd caught 
sight of the Diana in passing against the bluish blur 
of an old verdure — ^just the background for her hover- 
ing loveliness. Only I rather wondered why she wasn't 
in the room where he sat. 

He smiled. "Yes, I've got her," he returned, more 
calmly than I had expected. 

"And all the rest of the loot ?" 

"Yes. I had to buy the lump." 

[118] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

''Had to ? But you wanted to, didn't you ? You used 
to say it was your idea of heaven — ^to stretch out your 
hand and have a great ripe sphere of beauty drop into 
it. I'm quoting your own words, by the way." 

Neave blinked and stroked his seedy moustache. 
"Oh, yes. I remember the phrase. It's true — it is the 
last luxury." He paused, as if seeking a pretext for his 
lack of warmth. "The thing that bothered me was 
having to move. I couldn't cram all the stuff into my 
old quarters." 

"Well, I should say not! This is rather a better 
setting." 

He got up. "Come and take a look round. I want 
to show you two or three things — new attributions I've 
made. I'm doing the catalogue over." 

The interest of showing me the things seemed to 
dispel the vague apathy I had felt in him. He grew 
keen again in detailing his redistribution of values, and 
above all in convicting old Daunt and his advisers 
of their repeated aberrations of judgment. "The mir- 
acle is that he should have got such things, knowing as 
little as he did what he was getting. And the egregious 
asses who bought for him were no better, were worse 
in fact, since they had all sorts of humbugging wrong 
reasons for admiring what old Daunt simply coveted 
because it belonged to some other rich man." 

Never had Neave had so wondrous a field for the 

[US] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

exercise of his perfected faculty; and I saw then how 
in the real, the great collector's appreciations the keen- 
est scientific perception is suffused with imaginative 
sensibility, and how it is to the latter undefinable quality 
that in the last resort he trusts himself. 

Nevertheless, I still felt the shadow of that hovering 
apathy, and he knew I felt it, and was always breaking 
off to give me reasons for it. For one thing, he wasn't 
used to his new quarters — hated their bigness and 
formality; then the requests to show his things drove 
him mad. **The women — oh, the women!" he wailed, 
and interrupted himself to describe a heavy-footed 
German princess who had marched past his treasures as 
if she were reviewing a cavalry regiment, applying an 
unmodulated Mugneeficent to everjrthing from the en- 
graved gems to the Hercules torso. 

''Not that she was half as bad as the other kind," 
he added, as if with a last effor^ at optimism. ''The 
kind who discriminate and say: 'I'm not sure if it's 
Botticelli or Cellini I mean, but one of thai school^ at 
any rate.' And the worst of all are the ones who know 
— up to a certain point: have the schools, and the dates 
and the jargon pat, and yet wouldn't recognise a 
Phidias if it stood where they hadn't expected it." 

He had all my sympathy, poor Neave; yet these 
were trials inseparable from the collector's lot, and not 
always without their secret compensations. Certainly 

[114] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

they did not wholly explain my friend's state of mind; 
and for a moment I wondered if it were due to some 
strange disillusionment as to the quality of his treasures. 
But no! the Daunt collection was almost above criti- 
cism; and as we passed from one object to another I 
saw there was no mistaking the genuineness of Neave's 
pride in his possessions. The ripe sphere of beauty was 
his» and he had found no flaw in it as yet. . . 

A year later came the amazing announcement that the 
Daunt collection was for sale. At first we all supposed 
it was a case of weeding out (though how old Daunt 
would have raged at the thought of anybody's weeding 
his collection!) But no — ^the catalogue corrected that 
idea. Eveiy stick and stone was to go under the hammer. 
The news ran like wildfire from Rome to Berlin, from 
Paris to London and New York. Was Neave ruined, 
then? Wrong again — ^the dealers nosed that out in no 
time. He was simply selling because he chose to sell; 
and in due time the things came up at Christie's. 

But you may be sure the trade had found an answer 
to the riddle; and the answer was that, on close in- 
spection, Neave had found the things less good than he 
had supposed. It was a preposterous answer — ^but then 
there was no other. Neave, by this time, was pretty 
generally acknowledged to have the sharpest flair of 
any collector in Europe, and if he didn't choose to 

[116] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

keep the Daunt collection it could be only because he 
had reason to think he could do better. 

In a flash this report had gone the rounds, and the 
buyers were on their guard. I had run over to London 
to see the thing through, and it was the queerest sale 
I ever was at. Some of the things held their own, but 
a lot — and a few of the best among them — ^went for 
half their value. You see, they'd been locked up in 
old Daunt*s house for nearly twenty years, and hardly 
shown to any one, so that the whole younger genera- 
tion of dealers and collectors knew of them only by 
hearsay. Then you know the effect of suggestion in 
such cases. The undefinable sense we were speaking 
of is a ticklish instrument, easily thrown out of gear 
by a sudden fall of temperature; and the sharpest 
experts grow shy and self-distrustful when the cold 
current of depreciation touches them. The sale was a 
slaughter — and when I saw the Daunt Diana fall at 
the wink of a little third-rate brocatUeur from Vienna 
I turned sick at the folly of my kind. 

For my part, I had never believed that Neave had 
sold the collection because he'd ''found it out"; and 
within a year my incredulity was justified. As soon as 
the things were put in circulation they were known 
for the marvels that they are. There was hardly a poor 
bit in the lot; and my wonder grew at Neave's mad- 
ness. All over Europe, dealers began to fight for 

[116] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

the spoils; and all kinds of stuff were palmed off on 
the unsuspecting as fragments of the Daunt col- 
lection! 

Meantime, what was Neave doing ? For a long time 
I didn't hear, and chance kept me from returning to 
Rome. But one day, in Paris, I ran across a dealer who 
had captured for a song one of the best Florentine 
bronzes in the Daunt collection — a marvellous plaquette 
of Donatello's. I asked him what had become of it, 
and he said with a grin: ''I sold it the other day,'* 
naming a price that staggered me. 

"Ye gods! Who paid you that for it?" 

His grin broadened, and he answered: "Neave." 

** Neave? Humphrey Neave?" 

"Didn't you know he was buying back his things ?" 

"Nonsense!'* 

"He is, though. Not in his own name — ^but he's 
doing it." 

And he wca^ do you know — ^and at prices that 
would have made a sane man shudder! A few weeks 
later I ran across his tracks in London, where he was 
trying to get hold of a Penicaud enamel — another of 
his scattered treasures. Then I hunted him down at 
his hotel, and had it out with him. 

"Look here, Neave, what are you up to?" 

He wouldn't tell me at first: stared and laughed and 
denied. But I took him off to dine, and after dinner, 

[117] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

while we smoked, I happened to mention casually 
that I had a pull over the man who had the Penicaud 
— and at that he broke down and confessed. 

"Yes, I'm buying them back, Finney — it*s tnie.*^ 
He laughed nervously, twitching his moustache. And 
then he let me have the story. 

"You know how I'd hungered and thirsted for the 
real thing — ^you quoted my own phrase to me once, 
about the 'ripe sphere of beauty.' So when I got my 
money, and Daunt lost his, almost at the same moment, 
I saw the hand of Providence in it. I knew that, even if 
I'd been younger, and had had more time, I could never 
hope, nowadays, to form such a collection as that. There 
was the ripe sphere, within reach; and I took it. But when 
I got it, and began to live with it, I found out my mistake. 
The transaction was a mariage de convenance — there'd 
been no wooing, no winning. Each of my little old bits 
— ^the rubbish I chucked out to make room for Daunt's 
glories — ^had its own personal history, the drama of 
my relation to it, of the discovery, the struggle, the 
capture, the first divine moment of possession. There 
was a romantic secret between us. And then I had 
absorbed its beauties one by one, they had become a 
part of my imagination, they held me by a hundred 
threads of far-reaching association. And suddenly I 
had expected to create this kind of personal tie 
between myself and a roomful of new cold alien 

[118] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

presences — ^things staring at me vacantly from the 
depths of unknown pasts! Can you fancy a more pre- 
posterous hope ? Why, my other things, my own things 
had wooed me as passionately as I wooed them: there 
was a certain little Italian bronze, a little Venus, 
who had drawn me, drawn me, drawn me, imploring 
me to rescue her from her unspeakable surroundings 
in a vulgar bric-a-brac shop at Biarritz, where she 
shrank out of sight among sham Sevres and Dutch 
^Iver, as one has seen certain women — ^rare, shy, ex- 
quisite — ^made almost invisible by the vulgar splen- 
dours surrounding them. Well! that little Venus, who 
was just a specious seventeenth centuiy attempt at an 
'antique/ but who had penetrated me with her pleading 
grace, touched me by the easily guessed story of her 
obscure anonymous origin, was more to me imagina- 
tively — ^ycs! more — than the cold bought beauty of the 
Daunt Diana. . .'* 

''The Daunt Diana!" I broke in. ''Hold up, Neave 
— the Dauni Diana?** 

He smiled contemptuously. "A professional beauty, 
my dear feUow — expected eveiy head to be turned when 
ahe came into a room." 
Oh, Neave," I groaned. 

Yes, I know. You're thinking of what we felt that 
day we first saw her in London. Many a poor devil 
has sold his soul as the result of such a first sight; 

[119] 



«c 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

Well, I sold her instead. Do you want the truth about 
her ? EUe etait bete a pleurer." 

He laughed, and turned away with a shrug of dis- 
enchantment. 

"And so you're impenitent?" I insisted. "And yet 
you're buying some of the things back ?" 

Neave laughed again, ironically. "I knew you'd 
find me out and call me to account. Well, yes: I'm 
buying back." He stood before me, half sheepish, half 
defiant. "I'm buying back because there's nothing else 
as good in the market. And because I've a queer feel- 
ing that, this time, they'll be mine. But I'm ruining 
myself at the game!" he confessed. 

It was true: Neave was ruining himself. And he's 
gone on ruining himself ever since, till now the job's 
pretty nearly done. Bit by bit, year by year, he has 
gathered in his scattered treasures, at higher prices 
than the dealers ever dreamed of getting for them. 
There are fabulous details in the stoiy of his quest. 
Now and then I ran across him, and was able to help 
him recover a fragment; and it was touching to see 
his delight in the moment of reunion. Finally, about 
two years ago, we met in Paris, and he told me he had 
got back all the important pieces except the Diana. 

"The Diana? But you told me you didn't care for 
her." 

[ i«o] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

''Didn't care?" He leaned across the restaurant 
table that divided us. ''Well, no, in a sense I didn't. 
I wanted her to want me, you see; and she didn't 
then! Whereas now she's crying to me to come to her. 
You know where she is ?" he broke off. 

Yes, I knew: in the centre of Mrs. Willy P. Gold- 
mark's yellow-and-gold drawing-room, under a thou- 
sand-candle-power chandelier, with reflectors aimed at 
her from every point of the compass. I had seen her, 
wincing and shivering there in her outraged nudity, 
at one of the Groldmark ''crushes." 

"But you can't get her, Neave," I objected. 

"No, I can't get her," he said. 



Well, last month I was in Rome, for the first time in 
six or seven years, and of course I looked about for 
Neave. The Palazzo Neave was let to some rich Rus- 
sians, and the new porter didn't know where the pro- 
prietor lived. But I got on his trail easily enough, and it 
led me to a strange old place in the Trastevere, a 
crevassed black palace turned tenement house, and 
fluttering with pauper linen. I found Neave under the 
leads, in two or three cold rooms that smelt of the 
cuisine of all his neighbours: a poor shrunken figure, 
smaller and shabbier than ever, yet more alive than 
when we had made the tour of his collection in the 

Palazzo Neave. 

[181] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

The collection was around him again, not displayed 
in tall cabinets and on marble tables, but huddled on 
shelves, perched on chairs, crammed in comers, put- 
ting the gleam of bronze, the lustre of ;narble, the 
opalescence of old glass, into all the angles of his dim 
rooms. There they were, the presences that had stared 
at him down the vistas of Daunt House, and shone 
in cold transplanted beauty under his own cornices: 
there they were, gathered about him in humble pro- 
miscuity, like superb wild creatures tamed to become 
the familiars of some harmless wizard. 

As we went from bit to bit, as he lifted one piece 
after another, and held it to the light, I saw in his 
hands the same tremor that I had noticed when he first 
handled the same objects at Daunt House. All his life 
was in his finger-tips, and it seemed to communicate 
life to the things he touched. But you'll think me in- 
fected by his mysticism if I tell you they gained new 
beauty while he held them. . . 

We went the rounds slowly and reverently; and then, 
when I supposed our inspection was over, and was 
turning to take my leave, he opened a door I had not 
noticed, and showed me into a room beyond. It was 
a mere monastic cell, scarcely large enough for his nar- 
row bed and the chest which probably held his few 
clothes; but there, in a niche, at the foot of the bed — 
there stood the Daunt Diana. 

[122] 



THE DAUNT DIANA 

I gasped at the sight and turned to hun; and he looked 
back at me without speaking. 

''In the name of magic, Neave, how did you do it ?" 

He smiled as if from the depths of some secret rap- 
ture. ''Call it magic, if you like; but I ruined myself 
doing it," he said. 

I stared at him in silence, breathless with the mad- 
ness of it; and suddenly, red to the ears, he flung 
out his confession. "I lied to you that day in Lon- 
don — ^the day I said I didn't care for her. I always 
cared — always worshipped — always wanted her. But 
she wasn't mine then, and I knew it, and she knew 
it . . . and now at last we understand each other." 
He looked at me shyly, and then glanced about the 
bare room. "The setting isn't worthy of her, I 
know; she was meant for glories I can't give her; 
but beautiful things, my dear Finney, like beautiful 
spirits, live in houses not made with hands " 

His face shone with an extraordinary kind of light as 
he spoke; and I saw he'd got hold of the secret we're aU 
after. No, the setting isn't worthy of her, if you like. 
The rooms are as shabby and mean as those we used 
to see him in years ago over the wine shop. I'm not 
sure they're not shabbier and meaner. But she rules 
there at last, she shines and hovers there above him, 
and there at night, I doubt not, comes down from her 
cloud to give him the Latmian kiss. . . 

[128] 



THE DEBT 



THE DEBT 



YOU remember — it's not so long ago — ^the talk 
there was about Dredge's "Arrival of the Fit- 
test"? The talk has subsided, but the book of course 
remains: stands up, in fact, as the tallest thing of its 
kind since— weU, I'd ahnost said since "The Origin 
of Species," 

I'm not wrong, at any rate, in calling it the most 
important contribution yet made to the development 
of the Darwinian theory, or rather to the solution of 
the awkward problem about which that theory has had 
to make such a circuit. Dredge's hypothesis will be 
contested, may one day be disproved; but at least it 
has swept out of the way all previous conjectures, 
including of course Lanfear's great attempt; and for 
our generation of scientific investigators it will serve as 
the first safe bridge across a murderous black whirlpool. 

It's all very interesting — ^there are few things more 
stirring to the imagination than that projection of the 
new hypothesis, light as a cobweb and strong as steel, 
across the intellectual abyss; but, for an idle observer 

[1£7] 



THE DEBT 

of human motiveSy the other, the personal, side of 
Dredge's case is even more interesting and arresting. 

Personal side? You didn't know there was one? 
Pictured him simply as a thinking machine, a highly 
specialised instrument of precision, the result of a 
long series of ** adaptations," as his own jargon would 
put it ? Well, I don't wonder — if you've met him. He 
does give the impression of being something out of 
his own laboratory: a delicate instrument that reveals 
wonders to the initiated, but is useless in an ordinary 
hand. 

In his youth it was just the other way. I knew him 
twenty years ago, as an awkward lad whom young 
Archie Lanfear had picked up at college, and brought 
home for a visit. I happened to be staying at the Lan- 
f ears' when the boys arrived, and I shall never forget 
Dredge's first appearance on the scene. You know the 
Lanfears always lived very simply. That summer they 
had gone to Buzzard's Bay, in order that Professor 
Lanfear should be near the Biological Station at Wood's 
HoU, and they were picnicking in a kind of sketchy 
bungalow without any attempt at luxury. But Galen 
Dredge couldn't have been more awe-struck if he'd 
been suddenly plunged into a Fifth Avenue ball-room. 
He nearly knocked his head against the low doorway, 
and in dodging this peril trod heavily on Mabel Lan- 
fear's foot, and became hopelessly entangled in her 

[1«8] 



THE DEBT 

mother's draperies — ^though how he managed it I never 
knew, for Mrs. Lanfear*s dowdy muslins ran to no excess 
of train. 

When the Professor himself came in it was ten times 
worse, and I saw then that Dredge's emotion was a 
tribute to the great man's presence. That made the boy 
interesting, and I b^an to watch. Archie, always en- 
thusiastic but vague, had said: **Oh, he's a tremendous 
chap — ^you'll see — " but I hadn't expected to see quite 
so early. Lanfear's vision, of course, was sharper than 
mine; and the next morning he had carried Dredge off 
to the Biological Station. That was the way it began. 

Dredge is the son of a Baptist minister. He comes 
from East Lethe, New York State, and was working 
his way through coU^e — ^waiting at White Mountain 
hotels in summer — ^when Archie Lanfear ran across 
him. There were eight children in the family, and the 
mother was an invalid. Dredge never had a penny from 
his father after he was fourteen; but his mother wanted 
him to be a scholar, and **kept at him," as he put it, 
in the hope of his going back to ''teach school" at 
East Lethe. He developed slowly, as the scientific 
mind generally does, and was still adrift about himself 
and his tendencies when Archie took him down to 
Buzzard's Bay. But he had read Lanfear's ''Utility 
and Variation," and had always been a patient and 
curious observer of nature. And his first meeting with 

[1«9] 



THE DEBT 

Lanfear explained him to himself. It didn't, however, 
enable him to explain himself to others, and for a long 
time he remained, to all but Lanfear, an object of in- 
credulity and conjecture. 

" Why my husband wants him about " poor Mrs. 

Lanfear, the kindest of women, privately lamented to 
her friends; for Dredge, at that time — ^they kept him 
all summer at the bungalow — ^had one of the most 
encumbering personalities you can imagine. He was 
as inexpressive as he is to-day, and yet oddly obtrusive: 
one of those uncomfortable presences whose silence is 
an interruption. 

The poor Lanfears almost died of him that summer, 
and the pity of it was that he never suspected it, but 
continued to lavish on them a floundering devotion 
as inconvenient as the endearments of a dripping dog. 
He was full of all sorts of raw enthusiasms, which he 
forced on any one who would listen when his first shy- 
ness had worn off. You can*t see him spouting senti- 
mental poetry, can you ? Yet I*ve known him to petrify 
a whole group of Mrs. Lanfear*s callers by suddenly 
dischaiging on them, in the strident drawl of his state, 
"Barbara Frietchie'' or "The Queen of the May." 
His taste in literature was uniformly bad, but very 
definite, and far more dogmatic than his views on 
biological questions. In his scientific judgments he 
showed, even then, a temperance remarkable in one 

[ 130 ] 



THE DEBT 

so young; but In literature he was a furious propa- 
gandist, aggressive, disputatious, and extremely sensi- 
tive to adverse opinion. 

Lanfear, of course, had been struck from the first 
by his gift of observation, and by the fact that his 
eagerness to learn was offset by his reluctance to con- 
clude. I remember Lanfear's telling me that he had 
never known a lad of Dredge's age who gave such 
promise of uniting an aptitude for general ideas with 
the plodding patience of the observer. Of course when 
Lanfear talked like that of a young biologist his fate 
was sealed. There could be no question of Dredge's 
going back to '* teach school" at East Lethe. He must 
take a course in biology at Columbia, spend his vaca- 
tions at the Wood's HoU laboratory, and then, if pos- 
sible, go to Germany for a year or two. 

All this meant his virtual adoption by the Lanfears. 
Most of Lanfear's fortune went in helping young stu- 
dents to a start, and he devoted a liberal subsidy to 
Dredge. 

"Dredge will be my biggest dividend — ^you'll see!" 
he used to say, in the chrysalis days when poor Galen 
was known to the world of science only as a slouch- 
ing presence in Mrs. Lanfear's drawing-room. And 
Dredge, it must be said, took his obligations simply, 
with the dignity, and quiet consciousness of his own 
worth, which in such cases saves the beneficiaiy from 

[ 131 1 



THE DEBT 

abjectness. He seemed to trust himself as fully as 
Lanfear trusted him. 

The comic part of it was that his only idea of making 
what is known as ''a return" was to devote himself to 
the Professor's family. When I hear pretty women 
lamenting that they can't coax Professor Dredge out 
of his laboratory I remember Mabel Lanfear's cry to 
me: "If Galen would only keep away!" When Mabel 
fell on the ice and broke her leg» Galen walked seven 
miles in a blizzard to get a suigeon; but if he did her 
this service one day in the year, he bored her by being 
in the way for the other three hundred and sixty-four. 
One would have imagined at that time that he thought 
his perpetual presence the greatest gift he could be- 
stow; for, except on the occasion of his fetching the 
suigeon, I don't remember his taking any other way 
of expressing his gratitude. 

In love with Mabel? Not a bit! But the queer thing 
was that he did have a passion in those days — a blind 
hopeless passion for Mrs. Lanfear! Yes: I know what 
I'm saying. I mean Mrs. Lanfear, the Professor's wife, 
poor Mrs. Lanfear, with her tight hair and her loose 
shape, her blameless brow and earnest eye-glasses, 
and her perpetual air of mild misapprehension. I can 
see Dredge cowering, long and many-jointed, in a 
small drawing-room chair, one square-toed shoe coiled 
round an [exposed ankle, his knees clasped in a knot 

[ 18« ] 



THE DEBT 

of kntickleSy and his spectacles perpetually seeking 
Mrs. Lanfear*s eye-glasses. I never knew if the poor 
lady was aware of the sentiment she inspired, but her 
children observed it, and it provoked them to irrev- 
erent mirth. Galen was the predestined butt of Mabel 
and Archie; and secure in their mother's obtuseness, 
and in her worshipper's timidity, they allowed them- 
selves a latitude of banter that sometimes made their 
audience shiver. Dredge meanwhile was going on ob- 
stinately with his work. Now and then he had fits of 
idleness, when he lapsed into a 'state of sulky inertia 
from which even Lanfear's remonstrances could not 
rouse him. Once, just before an examination, he sud- 
denly went off to the Maine woods for two weeks, 
came back, and failed to pass. I don't know if his 
benefactor ever lost hope; but at times his confidence 
must have been sorely strained. The queer part of it 
was that when Dredge emerged from these eclipses he 
seemed keener and more active than ever. His slowly 
growing intelligence probably needed its periodical 
pauses of assimilation; and Lanfear was wonderfully 
patient. 

At last Dredge finished his course and went to Ger^ 
many; and when he came back he was a new man — 
was, in fact, the Dredge we all know. He seemed to 
have shed his encumbering personality, and have come 
to life as a disembodied intelligence. His fidelity to the 

[ISS] 



THE DEBT 

Lam^ears was unchanged; but he showed it n^atiyely, 
by his discretions and abstentions. I have an idea that 
Mabel was less disposed to laugh at him» might even 
have been induced to softer sentiments; but I doubt if 
Dredge even noticed the change. As for hb ex-god- 
dess, he seemed to regard her as a motherly household 
divinity, the guardian genius of the darning needle; 
but on Professor Lanfear he looked with a deepen- 
ing reverence. If the rest of the family had diminished 
in his eyes, its head had grown even greater. 



n 

From that day Dredge's progress continued steadily. 
If not always perceptible to the untrained eye, in Lan- 
fear's sight it never flagged, and the great man began 
to associate Dredge with his work, and to lean on him 
more and more. Lanfear's health was already failing, 
and in my confidential talks with him I saw how he 
counted on Dredge to continue and develop his teach- 
ings. If he did not describe the young man as his 
predestined Huxley, it was because any such compari- 
son between himself and his great predecessors would 
have been distasteful to him; but he evidently felt that 
it would be Dredge's part to reveal him to posterity. And 
the young man seemed at that time to take the same 
view. When he was not busy about Lanfear's work he 

t 134] 



THE DEBT 

was recording their oonversations with the diligence of 
a biographer and the accuracy of a naturalist. Any 
attempt to question Lanfear's theories or to minimise 
his achievement, roused in his disciple the only flashes 
of wrath I have ever seen a scientific discussion pro- 
voke in him. In defending his master he became 
almost as intemperate as in the early period of his 
literary passions. 

Such filial devotion must have been all the more 
precious to Lanfear because, about that time, it be- 
came evident that Archie would never carry on his 
father's work. He had b^un brilliantly, you may re- 
member, by a little paper on Limvlua Polyphemus 
that attracted a good deal of notice when it appeared; 
but gradually his zoological ardour yielded to a passion 
for the violin, which was followed by a plunge into 
physics. At present, after a side-glance at the drama, 
I understand he's devoting what is left of his father's 
money to archaeological explorations in Asia Minor. 

''Archie's got a delightful little mind," Lanfear used 
to say to me, rather wistfully, ''but it's just a highly 
polished surface held ap to the show as it passes. 
Dredge's mind takes in only a bit at a time, but the 
bit stays, and other bits are joined to it, in a hard 
mosaic of fact, of which imagination weaves the pat- 
tern. I saw just how it would be years ago, when my 
boy used to take my meaning in a flash, and answer me 

[135] 



THE DEBT 

with clever objections, while Galen disappeared into 
one of his fathomless silences, and then came to the 
surface like a dripping retriever, a long way beyond 
Archie's objections, and with an answer to them in 
his mouth." 

It was about this time that the crowning satisfaction 
of Lanfear's career came to him: I mean, of course, 
John Weyman's gift to Columbia of the Lanfear La- 
boratoiy, and the founding, in connection with it, of a 
chair of Experimental Evolution. Weyman had always 
taken an interest in Lanfear's work, but no one had 
supposed that his interest would express itself so mag- 
nificently. The honour came to Lanfear at a time 
when he Was fighting an accumulation of troubles: 
failing health, the money difficulties resulting from his 
irrepressible generosity, his disappointment about Ar- 
chie's career, and perhaps also the persistent attacks 
of the new school of German zoologists. 

**If I hadn't Galen I should feel the game was up," 
he said to me once, in a fit of half-real, half-mocking 
despondency. '"But he'll do what I haven't time to do 
myself, and what my boy can't do for me." 

That meant that he would answer the critics, and 
triumphantly reaffirm Lanfear's theory, which had 
been rudely shaken, but not dislodged. 

"A scientific hypothesis lasts till there's something 
else to put in its place. People who want to get across 

[ise] 



THE DEBT 

a river will use the old bridge till the new one's built. 
And I don't see any one who's particularly anxious* 
in this case, to take a contract for the new one/' Lan- 
fear ended; and I remember answering with a laugh: 
"Not while Horatius Dredge holds the other." 

It was generally known that Lanfear had not long 
to live, and the Laboratory was hardly opened before 
the question of his successor in the chair of Experi- 
mental Eyolution began to be a matter of public dis- 
cussion. It was conceded that whoeyer followed him 
ought to be a man of achieved reputation, some one 
carrying, as the French say, a considerable *'baj^age." 
At the same time, even Lanfear's critics felt that he 
should be succeeded by a man who held his views and 
would continue his teaching. This was not in itself a 
difficulty, for German criticism had so far been mainly 
n^ative, and there were plenty of good men who, 
while they questioned the permanent validity of Lan- 
fear's conclusions, were yet ready to accept them for 
their provisional usefulness. And then there was the 
added inducement of the Laboratory! The Columbia 
Professor of Experimental Evolution has at his dis- 
posal the most complete instrument of biological re- 
search that modem ingenuity has yet produced; and 
it's not only in theology or politics que Paris vavi 
bien une messel There was no trouble about finding 
a candidate; but the whole thing turned on Lanfear's 

[187] 



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decision, since it was tacitly understood that, by Wey- 
man's wish, he was to select his successor. And what 
a cry there was when he selected Galen Dredge! 

Not in the scientific world, though. The specialists 
were beginning to know about Dredge. His remarkable 
paper on Sexual Dimorphism had been translated into 
several languages, and a furious polemic had broken 
out over it. When a young fellow can get the big men 
fighting over him his future is pretty well assured. 
But Dredge was only thirty-four, and some people 
seemed to feel that there was a kind of deflected nepo- 
tism in Lanfear's choice. 

"If he could choose Dredge he might as well have 
chosen his own son," I've heard it said; and the irony 
was that Archie — ^will you believe it ? — actually thought 
so himself! But Lanfear had Weyman behind him, 
and when the end came the Faculty at once ap- 
pointed Galen Dredge to the chair of Experimental 
Evolution. 

For the first two years things went quietly, along ac- 
customed lines. Dredj^e simply continued the course 
which Lanfear's death had interrupted. He lectured 
well even then, with a persuasive simplicity surprising 
in the inarticulate creature one knew him for. But 
haven't you noticed that certain personalities reveal 
themselves only in the more impersonal relations of 
life ? It's as if they woke only to collective contacts, 

[ 138 ] 



THE DEBT 

and the single consciousness were an unmeaning frag- 
ment to them. 

If there was anything to criticise in that first part 
of the course, it was the avoidance of general ideas, of 
those brilliant rockets of conjecture that Lanfear*s stu- 
dents were used to seeing him fling across the darkness. 
I remember once saying this to Archie, who, having 
foigotten his absurd disappointment, had returned to 
his old allegiance to Dredge. 

"Oh, that's Galen all over. He doesn't want to 
jump into the ring till he has a big swishing knock- 
down argument in his fist. He'll wait twenty years if 
he has to. That's his strength: he's never afraid to 
wait." 

I thought this shrewd of Archie, as well as generous; 
and I saw the wisdom of Dredge's course. As Lanfear 
himself had said, his theory was safe enough till some- 
body found a more attractive one; and before that day 
Dredge would probably have accumulated sufficient 
proof to crystallise the fluid hypothesis. 



ni 

The third winter I was off collecting in Central Amer- 
ica, and didn't get back till Dredge's course had been 
going for a couple of months. The very day I turned 
up in town Archie Lanfear descended on me with a 

[189] 



THE DEBT 

summons from his mother. I was wanted at once at a 
family council. 

I found the Lanfear ladies in a state of explosive 
distress, which Archie's own indignation hardly made 
more intelligible. But gradually I put together their 
fragmentary charges, and learned that Dredge's lec- 
tures were turning into an organised assault on his 
master's doctrine. 

'"It amounts to just this," Archie said, controlling 
his women with the masterful gesture of the weak man. 
''Galen has simply turned round and betrayed my 
father." 

"Just for a handful of silver he left us," Mabel 
sobbed in parenthesis, while Mrs. Lanfear tearfully 
cited Hamlet. 

Archie silenced them again. "The ugly part of it is 
that he must have had this up his sleeve for years. 
He must have known when he was asked to succeed 
my father what use he meant to make of his oppor- 
tunity. What he's doing isn't the result of a hasty 
conclusion: it means years of work and prepara- 
tion." 

Archie broke off to explain himself. He had returned 
from Europe the week before, and had learned on 
arriving that Dredge's lectures were stirring the world 
of science as nothing had stirred it since Lanfear's 
"Utility and Variation." And the incredible affront 

[ 140 ] 



THE DEBT 

was that they owed their success to the fact of being 
an attempted refutation of Lanfear's great work. 

I own that I was staggered : the case looked ugly, as 
Archie said. And there was a veil of reticence, of secrecy, 
about Dredge, that always kept his conduct in a half- 
light of uncertainty. Of some men one would have said 
o£P-hand: "It's impossible!'' But one couldn't affirm 
it of him. 

Archie hadn't seen him as yet; and Mrs. Lanfear 
had sent for me because she wished me to be present 
at the interview between the two men. The Lanfear 
ladies had a touching belief in Archie's violence: they 
thought him as terrible as a natural force. My own idea 
was that if there were any broken bones they wouldn't 
be Dredge's; but I was too curious as to the outcome 
not to be glad to offer my services as moderator. 

First, however, I wanted to hear one of the lectures; 
and I went the next afternoon. The hall was jammed, 
and I saw, as soon as Dredge appeared, what increased 
security and ease the sympathy of his audience had 
given him. He had been clear the year before, now he 
was also eloquent. The lecture was a remarkable effort: 
you'll find the gist of it in Chapter VH of "The Ar- 
rival of the Fittest." Archie sat at my side in a white 
rage; he was too intelligent not to measure the extent 
of the disaster. And I was almost as indignant as he 

when we went to see Dredge the next day. 

[141] 



THE DEBT 

I saw at a glance that the latter suspected nothing; 
and it was characteristic of him that he began by 
questioning me about my finds, and only afterward 
turned to reproach Archie for having been back a week 
without letting him know. 

"You know I'm up to my neck in this job. Why in 
the world didn't you hunt me up before this?" 

The question was exasperating, and I could under- 
stand Archie's stanuner of wrath. 

"Hunt you up? Hunt you up? What the deuce are 
you made of, to ask me such a question instead of 
wondering why I'm here now?" 

Dredge bent his slow calm scrutiny on his friend's 
agitated face; then he turned to me. 
What's the matter?" he said simply. 
'The matter?" shrieked Archie, his fist hovering 
excitedly above the desk by which he stood; but 
Dredge, with unwonted quickness, caught the fist as 
it descended. 

"Careful — I've got a Kattima in that jar there." 
He pushed a chair forward, and added quietly: "Sit 
down " 

Archie, ignoring the gesture, towered pale and aveng- 
ing in his place; and Dredge, after a moment, took the 
chair himself. 

"The matter?" Archie reiterated. "Are you so lost 
to all sense of decency and honour that you can put 

[ 14«] 






c< 



f< 



THE DEBT 

that question in good faith? Don't you leally know 
what's the matter ? " 

Dredge smiled slowly. "There are so few things 
one really knows,** 

"Oh, damn your scientific hair-splitting! Don't you 
know you're insulting my father's memory?" 

Dredge thoughtfully turned his spectacles from one 
of us to the other. 

"Oh, that's it, is it? Then you'd better sit down. If 
you don't see at once it'll take some time to make you." 

Archie burst into an ironic laugh. 
I rather think it will!" he retorted. 
Sit down, Archie," I said, setting the example; 
and he obeyed, with a gesture that made his consent 
a protest. 

Dredge seemed to notice nothing beyond the fact 
that his visitors were seated. He reached for his pipe, 
and filled it with the care which the habit of delicate 
manipulations gave to all the motions of his long 
knotty hands. 

"It's about the lectures ?" he said. 

Archie's answer was a deep scornful breath. 

"You've only been back a week, so you've only 
heard one, I suppose?" 

"It was not necessary to hear even that one. You 
must know the talk they're making. If notoriety is 

what you're after " 

[14S] 



THE DEBT 

''Well, I'm not sorry to make a noise/' said Dredge» 
putting a match to his pipe. 

Archie bounded in his chair. "There's no easier way 
of doing it than to attack a man who can't answer you ! '* 

Dredge raised a sobering hand. "Hold on. Perhaps 
you and I don't mean the same thing. Tell me first 
what's in your mind." 

The question steadied Archie, who turned on Dredge 
a countenance really eloquent with filial indignation. 

"It's an odd question for you to ask; it makes me 
wonder what's in yours. Not much thought of my 
father, at any rate, or you couldn't stand in his place 
and use the chance he's given you to push yourself at 
his expense." 

Dredge received this in silence, puffing slowly at his 
pipe. 

"Is that the way it strikes you ?" he asked at length. 

"God! It's the way it would strike most men." 

He turned to me. "You too?" 

"I can see how Archie feels," I said. 

"That I am attacking his father's memory to glorify 
myself?" 

"Well, not precisely: I think what he really feels is 
that, if your convictions didn't permit you to continue 
his father's teaching, you might perhaps have done 
better to sever your connection with the Lanfear 
lectureship." 

[144] 



THE DEBT 

"Then you and he regard the Lanfear lectureship 
as having been founded to perpetuate a dogma, not 
to try and get at the truth ?'' 

"Certainly not/* Archie broke in. "But there's a 
question of taste, of delicacy, involved in the case that 
can't be decided on abstract principles. We know as 
well as you that my father meant the laboratory and 
the lectureship to serve the ends of science, at whatever 
cost to his own special convictions; what we feel — 
and you don't seem to — ^is that you're the last man to 
put them to that particular use; and I don't want to 
remind you why." 

A slight redness rose through Dredge's sallow skin. 
"You needn't/' he said. "It's because he pulled me 
out of my hole, woke me up, made me, shoved me off 
from the shore. Because he saved me ten or twenty 
years of muddled effort, and put me where I am at an 
age when my best working years are still ahead of me. 
Every one knows that's what your father did for me, 
but I'm the only person who knows the time and 
trouble it took." 

It was well said, and I glanced quickly at Archie, 
who was never closed to generous emotions. 

'Well, then ?" he said, flushing also. 

Well, then," Dredge continued, his voice deepening 
and losing its nasal edge, "I had to pay him back, 
didn't I?" 

[145] 






THE DEBT 

The sudden drop flung Archie back on his prepared 
attitude of irony. ''It would be the natural inference 
— ^with most men." 

''Just so. And I'm not so very different. I knew your 
father wanted a successor — some one who'd try and 
tie up the loose ends. And I took the lectureship with 
that object." 

"And you're using it to tear the whole fabric to 
pieces!" 

Dredge paused to re-light his pipe. " Looks that way/' 
he conceded. "This year anyhow." 

" This year ?" Archie echoed. 

"Yes. When I took up the job I saw it just as your 
father left it. Or rather, I didn't see any other way of 
going on with it. The change came gradually, as I 
worked." 

"Gradually? So that you had time to look round 
you, to know where you were, to see that you were 
fatally committed to undoing the work he had done ?" 

"Oh, yes — ^I had time," Dredge conceded. 

"And yet you kept the chair and went on with the 
course?" 

Dredge refilled his pipe, and then turned in his 
seat so that he looked squarely at Archie. 

"What would your father have done in my place?" 
he asked. 

"In your place ?" 

[ 146] 



THE DEBT 

'"Yes: supposing he'd found out the thmgs I've 
found out in the last year or two. You'll see what they 
are, and how much they count, if you'll run over the 
report of the lectures. If your father'd been alive he 
might have come across the same facts just as 
easily." 

There was a silence which Archie at last broke by 
saying: ''But he didn't, and you did. There's the dif- 
ference. 

"The difference? What difference? Would your 
father have suppressed the facts if he'd found them? 
It's you who insult his memory by implying it! And if 
I'd brought them to him, would he have used his hold 
over me to get me to suppress them ? 

C!ertainly not. But can't you see it's his death that 



' me vu gei luc vu suppieas uieiu i^ " 

makes the difference ? He's not here to defend his case." 



Dredge laughed, but not unkindly. "My dear Archie, 
your father wasn't one of the kind who bother to de- 
fend their case. Men like him are the masters, not the 
servants, of their theories. They respect an idea only 
as long as it's of use to them; when its usefulness ends 
they chuck it out. And that's what your father would 
have done." 

Archie reddened. "Don't you assume a good deal 
in taking it for granted that he would have had to do 
so in this particular case?" 

Dredge reflected. "Yes: I was going too far. Each 

[147] 



THE DEBT 

of us can only answer for himself. But to my mind 
your father's theory is refuted." 

"And you don*t hesitate to be the man to do it?" 

'^Should I have been of any use if I had ? And did 
your father ever ask anything of me but to be of as 
much use as I could ?" 

It was Archie's turn to reflect. "No. That was what 
he always wanted, of course." 

"That's the way I've always felt. The first day he 
took me away from East Lethe I knew the debt I was 
piling up against him» and I never had any doubt as 
to how I'd pay it, or how he'd want it paid. He didn't 
pick me out and train me for any object but to carry 
on the light. Do you suppose he'd have wanted me to 
snuff it out because it happened to light up a fact he 
didn't fancy? I'm using hia oil to feed my torch with: 
yes, but it isn't really his torch or mine, or his oil or 
mine: they belong to each of us till we drop and hand 
them on." 

Archie turned a sobered glance on him. "I see your 
point. But if the job had to be done I don't see that you 
need have done it from his chair." 

"There's where we differ. If I did it at all I had to 
do it in the best way, and with all the authority his 
backing gave me. If I owe your father anything, I 
owe him that. It would have made him sick to see the 
job badly done. And don't you see that the way to 

[148] 



THE DEBT 

honour him, and show what he's done for science, was 
to spare no advantage in my attack on him — ^that I'm 
proving the strength of his position by the desperate- 
ness of my assault?" Dredge paused and squared his 
lounging shoulders. '* After all/' he added, ''he's not 
down yet, and if I leave him standing I guess it'll be 
some time before anybody else cares to tackle him." 

There was a silence between the two men; then 
Dredge continued in a lighter tone: ''There's one thing, 
though, that we're both in danger of forgetting: and 
that is how little, in the long run, it all counts either 
way." He smiled a little at Archie's indignant gesture. 
"The most we caji any of us do — even by such a mag- 
nificent effort as your father's — is to turn the great 
marching army a hair's breadth nearer what seems to 
us the right direction; if one of us drops out, here and 
there, the loss of headway's hardly perceptible. And 
that's what I'm coming to now." 

He rose from hb seat, and walked across to the hearth ; 
then, cautiously resting his shoulder-blades against the 
mantel-shelf jammed with miscellaneous specimens, he 
bent his musing spectacles on Archie. 

"Your father would have understood why I've done 
what I'm doing; but that's no reason why the rest of 
you should. And I rather think it's the rest of you who've 
suffered most from me. He always knew what I was 
therefor, and that must have been some comfort even 

[149] 



THE DEBT 

when I was most in the way; but I was just an oidinaiy 
nuisance to you and your mother and Mabel. You 
were all too kind to let me see it at the time, but I've 
seen it since» and it makes me feel that* after all, the 
settling of this matter lies with you. If it hurts you to 
have me go on with my examination of your father's 
theory, I'm ready to drop the lectures to-morrow* and 
trust to the Lanfear Laboratory to breed up a young 
chap who'll knock us both out in time. You've only 
got to say the word." 

There was a pause while Dredge turned and laid 
his extinguished pipe carefully between a jar of em- 
bryo sea-urchins and a colony of regenerating plan- 
arians. 

Then Archie rose and held out his hand. 

"No " he said simply; "go on." 



[150] 



FULL CIRCLE 



FULL CIRCLE 



GEOFFREY Betton woke rather late— so late 
that the winter sunlight sliding across his bed- 
room carpet struck his eyes as he turned on the pillow. 

Stretty the valet, had been in, drawn the bath in 
the adjoining dressing-room, placed the crystal and 
silver cigarette-box at his side, put a match to the fire, 
and thrown open the windows to the bright morning 
air. It brought in, on the glitter of sun, all the crisp 
morning noises — ^those piercing notes of the American 
thoroughfare that seem to take a sharper vibration 
from the clearness of the medium through which they 
pass. 

Betton raised himself languidly. That was the voice 
of Fifth Avenue below his windows. He remembered 
that, when he moved into his rooms eighteen months 
before, the sound had been like music to him: the com- 
plex orchestration to which the tune of his new life 
was set. Now it filled him with disgust and weariness, 
since it had become the symbol of the hurry and noise 
of that new life. He had been far less hurried in the 

[168] 



FULL CIRCLE 

old days when he had to be up at seven, and down at 
the office sharp at nine. Now that he got up when he 
chose, and his life had no fixed framework of duties^ 
the hours hunted him like a pack of blood-hounds. 

He dropped back on his pillow with a groan. Yes — 
not a year ago there had been a positively sensuous joy 
in getting out of bed, feeling under his bare feet the 
softness of the warm red carpet, and entering the 
shining sanctuary where his great porcelain bath prof- 
fered its renovating flood. But then a year ago he 
could still call up the horror of the conununal plunge 
at his earlier lodgings: the listening for other bathers, 
the dodging of shrouded ladies in " crimping '*-pins, 
the cold wait on the landing, the descent into a blotchy 
tin bath, and the effort to identify one's soap and nail- 
brush among the promiscuous implements of ablution. 
That memory had faded now, and Betton saw only the 
dark hours to which his tiled temple of refreshment 
formed a kind of glittering antechamber. For after 
his bath came his breakfast, and on the breakfast tray 
his letters. His letters! 

He remembered — and thai memory had not faded! 
— the thrill with which, in the early days of his 
celebrity, he had opened the first missive in a strange 
feminine hand: the letter beginning: "I wonder if 
you'll mind an unknown reader's telling you all that 
your book has been to her?" 

[154] 



FULL CIRCLE 

Mind ? Ye gods, he minded now! For more than 
a year after the publication of ''Diadems and Faggots'' l. ''^^ 
the letters, the inane indiscriminate letters of commenda- 
tion, of criticism, of interrogation, had poured in on 
him by every post. Hundreds of unknown readers had 
told him with unsparing detail all that hb book had been 
to them. And the wonder of it was, when all was said 
and done, that it had really been so little — that when 
their thick broth of praise was strained through the 
author's searching vanity there remained to him so small 
a sediment of definite specific understanding! No — it 
was always the same thing, over and over and over 
again — ^the same vague gush of adjectives, the same 
incorrigible tendency to estimate his eifort according 
to each writer's personal preferences, instead of re- 
garding it as a work of art, a thing to be measured by 
fixed standards! 

He smiled to think how little, at first, he had felt 
the vanity of it all. He had found a savour even in the 
grosser evidences of popularity: the advertisements of 
his book, the daily shower of "clippings," the sense 
that, when he entered a restaurant or a theatre, people 
nudged each other and said ''That's Betton." Yes, 
the publicity had been sweet to him — ^at first. He had 
been touched by the sympathy of his fellow-men : had 
thought indulgently of the world, as a better place than 
the failures and the dyspeptics would acknowledge. And 



*^ 



PULL CIRCLE 

then his success began to submerge him: he gasped 
under the thickening shower of letters. His admirers 
were really unappeasable. And they wanted him to do 
such ridiculous things — ^to give lectures, to head move- 
ments» to be tendered receptions, to speak at ban- 
quets, to address mothers, to plead for orphans, to go 
up in balloons, to lead the struggle for sterilised milk. 
They wanted his photograph for literary supplements, 
his autograph for charity bazaars, his name on com- 
mittees, literary, educational, and social; above all, they 
wanted his opinion on everything: on Christianity, 
Buddhism, tight lacing, the drug habit, democratic 
government, female suffrage and love. Perhaps the 
chief benefit of this demand was his incidentally learn- 
ing from it how few opinions he really had: the only 
one that remained with him was a rooted horror of 
all forms of correspondence. He had been unspeakably 
thankful when the letters began to fall off. 

'* Diadems and Paggots'* was now two years old, 
and the moment was at hand when its author might 
have counted on regaining the blessed shelter of ob- 
livion — if only he had not written another book! For 
it was the worst part of his plight that the result of his 
first folly had goaded him to the perpetration of the 
next — that one of the incentives (hideous thought!) to 
his new work had been the desire to extend and per- 
petuate his popularity. And this very week the book was 

[ 166 ] 



FULL CIRCLE 

to come out, and the letters, the cursed letters, would 
begin again! 

Wistfully, almost plaintively, he looked at the 
breakfast-tray with which Strett presently appeared. 
It bore only two notes and the morning journals, but 
he knew that within the week it would groan under 
its epistolary burden. The very newspapers flung the 
fact at him as he opened them. 

Ready on Monday. 
Geoffrey Betton*s New Novel 

ABUNDANCE. 

By the Author of "Diadems and Faggots." 

FIRST edition OF ONE HXTNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND 

ALREADY SOLD OUT. 

Order Now. 

A hundred and fifty thousand volumes! And an 
average of three readers to each! Half a million of 
people would be reading him within a week, and every 
one of them would write to him, and their friends and 
relations would write too. He laid down the paper with 
a shudder. 

The two notes looked harmless enough, imd the ca- 
ligraphy of one was vaguely familiar. He opened the 
envelope and looked at the signature: Duncan Vyte. 
He had not seen the name in years — ^what on earth could 

[ 157] 



PULL CIRCLE 

Duncan Vyse have to say ? He ran over the page and 
dropped it with a wondering exclamation, which the 
watchful Strett, re-entering, met by a tentative "Yes, 
sir? 

"Nothing. Yes — ^that is " Betton picked up the 

note. "There's a gentleman, a Mr. Vyse, coming at 
ten." 

Strett glanced at the clock. "Yes, sir. You'll remem- 
ber that ten was the hour you appointed for the secre- 
taries to call, sir." 

Betton nodded. "I'll see Mr. Vyse first. My clothes, 
please." 

As he got into them, in the state of nervous hurry 
that had become almost chronic with him, he continued 
to think about Duncan Vyse. They had seen a great 
deal of each other for the few years after both had left 
Harvard: the hard happy years when Betton had been 
grinding at his business and Vyse — poor devil! — ^trying 
to write. The novelist recalled his friend's attempts with 
a smile; then the memory of one small volume came 
back to him. It was a novel: "The Lifted Lamp.'' 
There was stuff in that, certainly. He remembered 
Vyse's tossing it down on his table with a gesture of 
despair when it came back from the last publisher. 
Betton, taking it up indifferently, had sat riveted till 
daylight. When he ended, the impression was so strong 
that he said to himself: "I'll tell Apthorn about it — I'll 

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go and see him to-morrow.'' His own secret literary 
yearnings increased his desire to champion Vyse, to see 
him triumph over the dulness and timidity of the pub- 
lishers. Apthom was the youngest of the guild, still 
capable of opinions and the courage of them, a per- 
sonal friend of Betton's, and, as it happened, the man 
afterward to become known as the privileged pub- 
lisher of "Diadems and Faggots." Unluckily the next 
day something unexpected turned up, and Betton for^ 
got about Vyse and his manuscript. He continued to 
forget for a month, and then came a note from Vyse, 
who was ill, and wrote to ask what his friend had done. 
Betton did not like to say '*I've done nothing," so he 
left the note unanswered, and vowed again: "I'll see 
Apthom." 

The following day he was called to the West on busi- 
ness, and was away a month. When he came back, there 
was a third note from Vyse, who was still ill, and des- 
perately hard up. "I'll take anything for the book, if 
they*!! advance me two hundred dollars." Betton, full 
of compunction, would gladly have advanced the sum 
himself; but he was hard up too, and could only swear 
inwardly: "1*11 write to Apthom." Then he glanced 
again at the manuscript, and reflected: "No — there are 
things in it that need explaining. I'd better see him.'* 
Once he went so far as to telephone Apthom, but 

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the publisher was out. Then he finally and completely 
forgot. 

One Sunday he went out of town, and on his return, 
rummaging among the papers on his desk, he missed 
*'The Lifted Lamp," which had been gathering dust 
there for half a year. What the deuce could have be- 
come of it? Betton spent a feverish hour in vainly in- 
creasing the disorder of his documents, and then be- 
thought himself of calling the maid-servant, who first 
indignantly denied having touched anjrthing ("I can 
see that's true from the dust," Betton scathingly re- 
marked), and then mentioned with hauteur that a 
young lady had called in his absence and asked to be 
allowed to get a book. 

"A lady? Did you let her come up ?" 

"She said somebody'd sent her." 

Vyse, of course — ^Vyse had sent her for his manu- 
script! He was always mixed up with some woman, and 
it was just like him to send the girl of the moment to 
Betton's lodgings, with instructions to force the door 
in his absence. Vyse had never been remarkable for 
delicacy. Betton, furious, glanced over his table to see 
if any of his own effects were missing — one couldn't 
tell, with the company Vyse kept! — ^and then dismissed 
the matter from his mind, with a vague sense of mag- 
nanimity in doing so. He felt himself exonerated by 
Vyse's conduct. 

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The sense of magnanimity was stiU uppermost when 
the valet opened the door to announce "Mr. Vyse," 
and Betton, a moment later, crossed the threshold of 
his pleasant library. 

His first thought was that the man facing him from 
the hearth-rug was the very Duncan Vyse of old: small* 
starved, bleached-looking» with the same sidelong 
movements, the same air of anaemic truculence. Only 
he had grown shabbier, and bald. 

Betton held out a hospitable hand. 

"This is a good surprise! Glad you looked me up, 
my dear fellow." 

Yyse's palm was damp and bony: he had always had 
a disagreeable hand. 

"You got my note? You know what I've come 
for?" 

"About the secretaryship? (Sit down.) Is that really 
serious?" 

Betton lowered himself luxuriously into one of his 
vast Maple arm-chairs. He had grown stouter in the 
last year, and the cushion behind him fitted comfort- 
ably into the crease of his nape. As he leaned back he 
caught sight of his image in the mirror between the 
windows, and reflected uneasily that Yyse would not 
find him unchanged. 

"Serious?" Vyse rejoined. "Why not? Aren't 

you?" 

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"Oh, perfectly." Betton laughed apologetically. 
"Only — well, the fact is, you may not understand what 
rubbish a secretary of mine would have to deal with 
In advertising for one I never imagined — I didn't as- 
pire to any one above the ordinary hack." 

"I'm the ordinary hack," said Vyse drily. 

Betton 's affable gesture protested. "My dear fel- 
low . You see it's not business — what I'm in now," 

he continued with a laugh. 

Vyse's thin lips seemed to form a noiseless "Isn't 
it?" which they instantly transposed into the audible 
reply: "I judged from your advertisement that you 
want some one to relieve you in your literary work. 
Dictation, short-hand — ^that kind of thing?" 

"Well, no: not that either. I type my own things. 
What I'm looking for is somebody who won't be above 
tackling my correspondence." 

Vyse looked slightly surprised. "I should be glad 
of the job," he then said. 

Betton began to feel a vague embarrassment. He 
had supposed that such a proposal would be instantly 
rejected. "It would be only for an hour or two a day — 
if you're doing any writing of your own ? " he threw 
out interrogatively. 

"No. I've given all that up. I'm in an office now — 
business. But it doesn't take all my time, or pay enough 
to keep me alive," 

[16*1 



FULL CIRCLE 

"In that case, my dear fellow — if you could come 
every morning; but it's mostly awful bosh, you know," 
Betton again broke off, with growing awkwardness. 

Vyse glanced at him humorously. "What you want 
me to write?" 

"Well, that depends " Betton sketched the ob- 
ligatory smile. "But I was thinking of the letters you'll 
have to answer. Letters about my books, you know— 
I've another one appearing next week. And I want to 
be beforehand now — dam the flood before it swamps 
me. Have you any idea of the deluge of stuff that peo- 
ple write to a successful novelist?" 

As Betton spoke, he saw a tinge of red on Vyse's thin 
cheek, and his own reflected it in a richer glow of shame. 
"I mean — I mean " he stammered helplessly. 

"No, I haven't," said Vyse; "but it will be awfully 
jolly finding out." 

There was a pause, groping and desperate on Betton's 
part, sardonically calm on his visitor's. 

"You — ^you've given up writing altogether?" Betton 
continued. 

"Yes; we've changed places, as it were." Vyse paused. 
"But about these letters — ^you dictate the answers?" 

"Lord, no! That's the reason why I said I wanted 
somebody — er — well used to writing. I don't want to 
have anything to do with them — ^not a thing! You'll 

have to answer them as if they were written to you " 

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Betton puUed himself up again, and rising in confusion 
jerked open one of the drawers of his writing-table. 

''Here — this kind of rubbish/' he said, tossing a 
packet of letters onto Vyse*s knee. 

"Oh — you keep them, do you?" said Vyse simply. 

"I — ^well — ^some of them; a few of the funniest 
only." 

Vyse slipped off the band and began to open the 
letters. YHiile he was glancing over them Betton again 
caught his own reflection in the glass, and asked him- 
self what impression he had made on his visitor. It 
occurred to him for the first time that his high-coloured 
well-fed person presented the image of commercial 
rather than of intellectual achievement. He did not 
look like his own idea of the author of ''Diadems and 
Faggots" — and he wondered why. 

Vyse laid the letters aside. "I think I can do it — if 
you'll give me a notion of the tone I'm to take." 

"The tone?" 

"Yes — that is, if you expect me to sign your name.** 

"Oh, of course you're to sign for me. As for the 
tone, say just what you'd — ^well, say all you can with- 
out encouraging them to answer." 

Vyse rose from his seat. "I could submit a few speci- 
mens," he suggested. 

"Oh, as to that — ^you always wrote better than I 

do," said Betton handsomely. 

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<«T>. 



I*ve never had this kind of thing to write. When do 
you wish me to begin?" Vyse inquired, ignoring the 
tribute. 

''The book's out on Monday. The deluge will prob- 
ably begin about three days after. Will you turn up on 
Thursday at this hour?" Betton held his hand out 
with real heartiness. ''It was great luck for me» your 
striking that ^advertisement. Don't be too harsh with 
my correspondents — I owe them something for having 
brought us together." 



n 

The deluge began punctually on the Thursday, and 
Vyse» arriving as punctually, had an impressive pile 
of letters to attack. Betton, on his way to the Park for 
a ride, came into the library, smoking the cigarette of 
indolence, to look over his secretary's shoulder. 

"How many of *em? Twenty? Good Lord! It's 
ftomst to be worse than 'Diadems.' I've just had my 
iTquiet bn^kfast in two years-time to read the 
papers and loaf. How I used to dread the sight of my 
letter-box! Now I shan't know that I have one." 

He leaned over Vyse's chair, and the secretary 
handed him a letter. 

"Here's rather an exceptional one — lady, evidently. 

I thought you might want to answer it yourself " 

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''Exceptional?'* Betton ran over the mauve pages 
and tossed them down. "Why, my dear man, I get 
hundreds like that. You'll have to be pretty short with 
her, or she'll send her photograph." 

He clapped Vyse on the shoulder and turned away, 
humming a tune. "Stay to luncheon," he called back 
gaily from the threshold. 

After luncheon Vyse insisted on showing a few of 
his answers to the first batch of letters. "If I've struck 
the note I won't bother you again," he urged; and Bet- 
ton groaningly consented. 

"My dear fellow, they're beautiful — ^too beautiful. 
I'll be let in for a correspondence with every one of 
these people." 

Vyse, in reply, mused for a while above a blank 
sheet. "All right — ^how's this?" he said, after another 
interval of rapid writing. 

Betton glanced over the page. "By George — by 
George! Won't she see it?" he exulted, between fear 
and rapture. 

"It's wonderful how little people see," said Vyse 
reassuringly. 

The letters continued to pour in for several weeks after 
the appearance of "Abundance." For five or six bliss- 
ful days Betton did not even have his mail brought to 
him, trusting to Vyse to single out his personal corre- 

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spondence, and to deal with the rest of the letters ac- 
oording to their agreement. During those days he lux- 
uriated in a sense of wild and lawless freedom; then, 
gradually, he began to feel the need of fresh restraints 
to break, and learned that the zest of liberty lies in the 
escape from specific obligations. At first he was con- 
scious only of a vague hunger, but in time the crav- 
ing resolved itself into a shame-faced desire to see his 
letters. 

" After all, I hated them only because I had to answer 
them"; and he told Vyse carelessly that he wished all 
his letters submitted to him before the secretary an- 
swered them. 

The first morning he pushed aside those beginning: 
"I have just laid down 'Abundance' after a third read- 
ing," or: "Every day for the last month I have been 
telephoning my bookseller to know when your novef 
would be out." But little by little the freshness of his 
interest revived, and even this stereotyped homage be- 
gan to arrest his eye. At last a day came when he read 
all the letters, from the first word to the last, as he 
had done when "Diadems and Faggots" appeared. 
It was really a pleasure to read them, now that he was 
relieved of the burden of replying: his new relation to 
his correspondents had the glow of a love-affair un- 
chilled by the contingency of marriage. 

One day it struck him that the letters were coming 

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in more slowly and in smaller numbers. Certainly there 
had been more of a rush when ** Diadems and Faggots" 
came out. Betton b^an to wonder if Vyse were exer- 
cising an unauthorised discrimination, and keeping 
back the oonmiunications he deemed least important. 
This conjecture carried the novelist straight to his 
library, where he found Vyse bending over the writing- 
table with his usual inscrutable pale smile. But once 
there, Betton hardly knew how to frame his question, 
and blundered into an inquiry for a missing invitation. 

"There's a note — a personal note — I ought to have 
had this morning. Sure you haven't kept it back by 
mistake among the others?'* 

Vyse laid down his pen. "The others? But I never 
keep back any." 

Betton had foreseen the answer. "Not even the worst 
twaddle about my book?" he suggested lightly, push- 
ing the papers about. 

"Nothing. I understood you wanted to go over them 
all first." 

"Well, perhaps it's safer," Betton conceded, as if 
the idea were new to him. With an embarrassed hand 
he continued to turn over the letters at Vyse's elbow. 

"Those are yesterday's," said the secretary; "here 
are to-day's," he added, pointing to a meagre trio. 

"H'm — only these?" Betton took them and looked 
them over lingeringly. "I don't see what the deuce that 

[ 168 ] 



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chap means about the first part of 'Abundance' * cer- 
tainly justifying the title* — do you?" 

Vyse was silent, and the novelist continued irritably: 
** Damned cheek, his writing, if he doesn't like the book. 
Who cares what he thinks about it, anyhow ?" 

And his morning ride was embittered by the dis- 
covery that it was unexpectedly disagreeable to have 
Vyse read any letters which did not express unqualified 
praise of his books. He began to fancy that there was a 
latent rancour, a kind of bafiBed sneer, under Yyse's 
manner; and he decided to return to the practice of hav- 
mg his mail brought straight to his room. In that way 
he could edit the letters before his secretary saw them. 

Vyse made no conmient on the change, and Betton 
was reduced to wondering whether his imperturbable 
composure were the mask of complete indifference or 
of a watchful jealousy. The latter view being more 
agreeable to his employer's self-esteem, the next step 
was to conclude that Vyse had not foigotten the episode 
of ''The Lifted Lamp," and would naturally take a 
vindictive joy in any unfavourable judgments passed on 
his rival's work. This did not simplify the situation, for 
there was no denying that unfavourable criticisms pre- 
ponderated in Betton's correspondence. "Abundance" 
was neither meeting with the unrestricted welcome of 
"Diadems and Faggots," nor enjoying the alternative 
of an animated controversy: it was simply found dull, 

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and its readers said so in language not too tactfully 
tempered by comparisons with its predecessor. To 
withhold unfavourable comments from Yyse was, there- 
fore, to make it appear that correspondence about the 
book had died out; and its author, mindful of his un- 
guarded predictions, found this even more embarrass- 
ing. The simplest solution would be to get rid of Vyse; 
and to this end Betton began to address his energies. 

One evening, finding himself unexpectedly disen- 
gaged, he asked Vyse to dine; it had occurred to him 
that, in the course of an after-^linner chat, he might 
hint his feeling that the work he had offered his friend 
was unworthy so accomplished a hand. 

Vyse surprised him by a momentary hesitation. "I 
may not have time to dress." 

Betton brushed the objection aside. "What's the 
odds ? We'll dine here — ^and as late as you like." 

Vyse thanked him, and appeared, punctually at 
eight, in all the shabbiness of his daily wear. He looked 
paler and more shyly truculent than usual, and Betton, 
from the height of his florid stature, said to himself, 
with the sudden professional instinct for "type": "He 
might be an agent of something — ^a chap who carries 
deadly secrets." 

Vyse, it was to appear, did carry a deadly secret; but 
one less perilous to society than to himself. He was sim- 
ply poor — unpardonably, irremediably poor. Everything 

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failed him, had always failed him: whatever he put his 
hand to went to bits. 

This was the confession that, reluctantly, yet with 
a kind of white-lipped bravado, he flung at Betton in 
answer to the latter's tentative suggestion that, really, 
the letter-answering job wasn't worth bothering him 
with — a thing that any tjrpe-writer could do. 

"If you mean that you're paying me more than it's 
worth, I'll take less," Vyse rushed out after a pause. 

"Oh, my dear fellow " Betton protested, flushing. 

"What do you mean, then ? Don't I answer the letters 
as you want them answered ?" 

Betton anxiously stroked his silken ankle. "You do 
it beautifully, too beautifully. I mean what I say: the 
work's not worthy of you. I'm ashamed to ask you " 

"Oh, hang shame," Vyse interrupted. "Do you 
know why I said I shouldn't have time to dress to- 
night? Because I haven't any evening clothes. As a 
matter of fact, I haven't much but the clothes I stand 
in. One thing after another's gone against me; all the 
infernal ingenuities of chance. It's been a slow Chinese 
torture, the kind where they keep you alive to have 
more fun killing you." He straightened himself with 
a sudden blush. "Oh, I'm all right now — getting on 
capitally. But I'm still walking rather a narrow plank; 
and if I do your work well enough — if I take your 

idea " 

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Betton stared into the fire without answering. He 
knew next to nothing of Vyse's history, of the mischance 
or mbmanagement that had brought him, with his 
brains and his training, to so unlikely a pass. But a 
pang of compunction shot through him as he remem- 
bered the manuscript of *'The Lifted Lamp'' gathering 
dust on his table for half a year. 

"Not that it would have made any earthly difference 
— since he's evidently never been able to get the thing 
published." But this reflection did not wholly console 
Betton, and he found it impossible, at the moment, to 
tell Vyse that his services were not needed. 



ni 

During the ensuing weeks the letters grew fewer and 
fewer, and Betton foresaw the approach of the fatal 
day when his secretary, in common decency, would 
have to say: "I can't draw my pay for doing nothing." 

What a triumph for Vyse! 

The thought was intolerable, and Betton cursed his 
weakness in not having dismissed the fellow before 
such a possibility arose. 

''If I tell him I've no use for him now, he'll see 
straight through it, of course; — and then, hang it, he 
looks so poor!" 

This consideration came after the other, but Betton» 

[ 172 ] 



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in rearranging them, put it first, because he thought it 
looked better there, and also because he immediately 
perceived its value in justifying a plan of action that 
was beginning to take shape in his mind. 

''Poor devil, I'm damned if I don't do it for him!'* 
said Betton, sitting down at his desk. 

Three or four days later he sent word to Vyse that 
he didn't care to go over the letters any longer, and that 
they would once more be carried directly to the library. 

The next time he lounged in, on his way to his morn- 
ing ride, he found his secretary's pen in active mo- 
tion. 

"A lot to-day," Vyse told him cheerfully. 

His tone irritated Betton: it had the inane optimism 
of the physician reassuring a discouraged patient. 

''Oh, Lord — I thought it was almost over," groaned 
the novelist. 

"No: they've just got their second wind. Here's one 
from a Chicago publisher — never heard the name — 
offering you thirty per cent, on your next novel, with 
an advance royalty of twenty thousand. And here's a 
chap who wants to syndicate it for a bunch of Sunday 
papers: big offer, too. That's from Ann Arbor. And this 
— oh, this one's funny!** 

He held up a small scented sheet to Betton, who 
made no movement to receive it. 

"Funny? Why's it funny?" he growled. 

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"Well, it's from a girl — a lady — and she thinks she's 
the only person who understands * Abundance' — ^has the 
clue to it. Says she's never seen a book so misrepre- 
sented by the critics " 

"Ha, ha! That is good!" Betton agreed with too 
loud a laugh. 

"This one's from a lady, too — married woman. 
Says she's misunderstood, and would like to corre- 
spond." 

"Oh, Lord," said Betton. — "What are you looking 
at?" he added sharply, as Vyse continued to bend his 
blinking gaze on the letters. 

"I was only thinking I'd never seen such short letters 
from women. Neither one fills the first page." 

"Well, what of that?" queried Betton. 

Vyse reflected. "I'd like to meet a woman like that," 
he said wearily; and Betton laughed again. 

The letters continued to pour in, and there could 
be no farther question of dispensing with Vyse's services. 
But one morning, about three weeks later, the latter 
asked for a word with his employer, and Betton, on 
entering the library, found his secretary with half a 
dozen documents spread out before him. 

"What's up?" queried Betton, with a touch of 
impatience. 

Vyse was attentively scanning the outspread letters. 

"I don't know: can't make out." His voice had a 

[174] 



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faint note of embarrassment. '"Do you remember a 
note signed Hester Macklin that came three or four 
weeks ago? Married — ^misunderstood — ^Western army 
post — ^wanted to correspond?" 

Betton seemed to grope among his memories; then 
he assented vaguely. 

"A short note/* Vyse went on: "the whole story in 
half a page. The shortness struck me so much — and the 
directness — ^that I wrote her: wrote in my own name, 
I mean.'* 

"In your own name?" Betton stood amazed; then 
he broke into a groan. 

"Good Lord, Vyse — ^you*re incorrigible!** 

The secretary pulled his thin moustache with a ner- 
vous laugh. "If you mean I*m an ass, you*re right. 
Look here.** He held out an envelope stamped with the 
words: "Dead Letter Office.** "My effusion has come 
back to me marked 'unknown/ There*s no such per- 
son at the address she gave you.** 

Betton seemed for an instant to share his secretary*s 
embarrassment; then he burst into an uproarious 
laugh. 

"Hoax, was it? That*s rough on you, old fellow!'* 

Vyse shrugged his shoulders. "Yes; but the inter- 
esting question is — why on earth didn*t your answer 
come back, too?" 

"My answer?'* 

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"The official one — the one I wrote in your name. If 
she's unknown, what's become of tfuU f** 

Betton's eyes were wrinkled by amusement. "Per- 
haps she hadn't disappeared then." 

Vyse disregarded the conjecture. "Look here — ^I be- 
lieve all these letters -are a hoax," he broke out. 

Betton stared at him with a face that turned slowly 
red and angry. "What are you talking about P All what 
letters?" 

"These I've got spread out here: I've been compar- 
ing them. And I believe they're all written by one man." 

Betton's redness turned to a purple that made his 
ruddy moustache seem pale. "What the devil are you 
driving at?" he asked. 

"Well, just look at it," Vyse persisted, still bent 
above the letters. "I've been studying them carefully 
— ^those that have come within the last two or three 
weeks — and there's a queer likeness in the writing of 
some of them. The g*s are all like cork-screws. And the 
same phrases keep recurring — ^the Ann Arbor news- 
agent uses the same expressions as the President of the 
Girl's College at Euphorbia, Maine." 

Betton laughed. "Aren't the critics always groaning 
over the shrinkage of the national vocabulary? Of 
course we all use the same expressions." 

"Yes," said Vyse obstinately. "But how about using 
the same sr's?" 

[ 176] 



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Betton laughed again, but Vyse continued without 
heeding him: ''Look here, Betton — could Strett have 
written them?" 

"Stiett?" Betton roared. ^'StreUf* He threw him- 
self into his arm-chair to shake out his mirth at greater 
ease. 

''1*11 tell you why. Strett always posts all my answers. 
He comes in for them every day before I leave. He 
posted the letter to the misunderstood party — ^the letter 
from you that the Dead Letter Office didn't return. 
I posted my own letter to her; and that came back." 

A measurable silence followed the emission of this 
ingenious conjecture; then Betton observed with gentle 
irony: "Extremely neat. And of course it's no business 
of yours to supply any valid motive for this remark- 
able attention on my valet*s part." 

Vyse cast on him a slanting glance. 

"If you've found that human conduct's generally 
based on valid motives — 



XI uu viuiu uiuuves !" 

<4 



Well, outside of mad-houses it's supposed to be 
not quite incalculable." 

Vyse had an odd smile under his thin moustache. 
"Every house is a mad-house at some time or an- 
other." 

Betton rose with a careless shake of the shoulders. 
"This one will be if I talk to you much longer," he 
said, moving away with a laugh. 

I 177] 



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IV 

Betton did not for a moment believe that Vyse sus- 
pected the valet of having written the letters. 

"Why the devil don't he say out what he thinks? 
He was always a tortuous chap/' he grumbled inwardly. 

The sense of being held under the lens of Vyse's 
mute scrutiny became more and more exasperating. 
Betton, by this time, had squared his shoulders to the 
fact that "Abundance" was a failure with the public: 
a confessed and glaring failure. The press told him so 
openly, and his friends emphasised the fact by their 
circumlocutions and evasions. Betton minded it a good 
deal more than he had expected, but not nearly as 
much as he minded Vyse's knowing it. That remained 
the central twinge in his diffused discomfort. And the 
problem of getting rid of his secretary once more en- 
gaged him. * 

He had set aside all sentimental pretexts for retain- 
ing Vyse; but a practical argument replaced them. "If 
I ship him now he'll think it's because I'm ashamed to 
have him see that I'm not getting any more letters." 

For the letters had ceased again, almost abruptly, 
since Vyse had hazarded the conjecture that they were 
the product of Strett's devoted pen. Betton had re- 
verted only once to the subject — to ask ironically, a 
day or two later: "Is Strett writing to me as much as 

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ever?" — and, on Vyse's replying with a neutral head- 
shake, had added, laughing: '*If you suspect him you'll 
be thinking next that I write the letters myself!" 

"There are very few to-day," said Vyse, with an 
irritating evasiveness; and Betton rejoined squarely: 
"Oh, they*U stop soon. The book's a failure." 

A few mornings later he felt a rush of shame at his 
own tergiversations, and stalked into the library with 
Vyse's sentence on his tongue. 

Vyse was sitting at the table making pencil-sketches 
of a girl's profile. Apparently there was nothing else for 
him to do. 

"Is that your idea of Hester Macklin?" asked Bet- 
ton jovially, leaning over him. 

Vyse started back with one of his anaemic blushes. 
"I was hoping you'd be in. I wanted to speak to you. 
There'vc been no letters the last day or two," he ex- 
plained. 

Betton drew a quick breath of relief. The man had 
some sense of decency, then! He meant to dismiss 
himself. 

"I told you so, my dear fellow; the book's a flat 
failure," he said, almost gaily. 

Vyse made a deprecating gesture. "I don't know that 
I should regard the absence of letters as the final 
test. But I wanted to ask you if there isn't something 
else I can do on the days when there's no writing." 

[179] 



FULL CIRCLE 

He turned his glance toward the book-lined walls. 
"Don't you want your library catalogued?" he asked 
insidiously. 

"Had it done last year, thanks." Betton glanced 
away from Vyse's face. It was piteous how he needed 
the job! 

"I see. . . Of course this is just a temporary lull in 
the letters. They'll begin again — as they did before. 
The people who read carefully read slowly — ^you haven't 
heard yet what they think." 

Betton felt a rush of puerile joy at the suggestion. 
Actually, he hadn't thought of that! 

"There wiis a big second crop after * Diadems and 
Faggots,'" he mused aloud. 

"Of course. Wait and see," said Vyse confidently. 

The letters in fact began again — ^more gradually and 
in smaller numbers. But their quality was different, 
as Vyse had predicted. And in two cases Betton's cor- 
respondents, not content to compress into one rapid 
communication the thoughts inspired by his work, 
developed their views in a succession of really remark- 
able letters. One of the writers was a professor in a 
Western college; the other was a girl in Florida. In 
their language, their point of view, their reasons for 
appreciating "Abundance," they differed almost dia- 
metrically; but this only made the unanimity of their 

[ 180] 



FULL CIRCLE 

approval the more striking. The rush of correspondence 
evoked by Betton's earlier novel had produced nothing 
so personal, so exceptional as these communications. 
He had gulped the praise of ''Diadems and Faggots" 
as undiscriminatingly as it was offered; now he knew 
for the first time the subtler pleasures of the palate. 
He tried to feign indifference, even to himself; and to 
Vyse he made no sign. But gradually he felt a desire 
to know what his secretary thought of the letters, and, 
above all, what he was saying in reply to them. And he 
resented acutely the possibility of Vyse's starting one of 
his clandestine correspondences with the girl in Florida. 
Vyse*s notorious lack of delicacy had never been more 
vividly present to Betton's imagination; and he made 
up his mind to answer the letters himself. 

He would keep Vyse on, of course: there were other 
communications that the secretary could attend to. 
And, if necessary, Betton would invent an occupation : 
he cursed his stupidity in having betrayed the fact that 
his books were already catalogued. 

Vyse showed no surprise when Betton announced 
his intention of dealing personally with the two cor- 
respondents who showed so flattering a reluctance to 
take their leave. But Betton immediately read a 
criticism in his lack of comment, and put forth, on 
a note of challenge: "After all, one must be de- 
cent!" 

[181] 



FULL CIRCLE 

Vyse looked at him with an evanescent smile. 
"You'll have to explain that you didn't write' the first 
answers." 

Betton halted. "Well — I — I more or less dictated 
them, didn't I.»" 

"Oh, virtually, they're yours, of course ** 

"You think I can put it that way ?" 

"Why not?" The secretary absently drew an ara- 
besque on the blotting-pad. "Of course they'll keep it 
up longer if you write yourself," he suggested. 

Betton blushed, but faced the issue. "Hang it all, 
I shan't be sorry. They interest me. They're remark- 
able letters." And Vyse, without observation, returned 
to his writings. 

The spring, that year, was delicious to Betton. His 
college professor continued to address him tersely but 
cogently at fixed intervals, and twice a week eight ser- 
ried pages came from Florida. There were other letters, 
too; he had the solace of feeling that at last "Abun- 
dance" was making its way, was reaching the people 
who, as Vyse said, read slowly because they read in- 
telligently. But welcome as were all these proofs of 
his restored authority they were but the background 
of his happiness. His life revolved for the moment 
about the personality of his two chief correspondents. 
The professor's letters satisfied his craving for intel- 
lectual recognition, and the satisfaction he felt in them 

[188] 



FULL CIRCLE 

proved how completely he had lost faith in himself. 
He blushed to think that his opinion of his work had 
been swayed by the shallow judgments of a public 
whose taste he despised. Was it possible that he had 
allowed himself to think less well of '* Abundance'* 
because it was not to the taste of the average novel- 
reader? Such false humility was less excusable than 
the crudest appetite for praise: it was ridiculous to try 
to do conscientious work if one's self-esteem were at 
the mercy of popular judgments. All this the professor's 
letters delicately and indirectly conveyed to Betton, 
with the result that the author of ''Abundance" began 
to recognise in it the ripest flower of his genius. 

But if the professor understood his book, the girl 
from Florida understood him; and Betton was fully 
alive to the superior qualities of discernment which 
this implied. For his lovely correspondent his novel 
was but the starting point, the pretext of her discourse: 
he himself was her real object, and he had the deli- 
dous sense, as their exchange of thoughts proceeded, 
that she was interested in "Abundance" because of 
its author, rather than in the author because of his 
book. Of course she laid stress on the fact that his 
ideas were the object of her contemplation; but Betton 's 
agreeable person had permitted him some insight into 
the incorrigible subjectiveness of female judgments, 
and he was pleasantly aware, from the lady's tone, 

118S] 



FULL CIRCLE 

that she guessed him to be neither old nor ridiculous. 
And suddenly he wrote to ask if he might see her. . . 

The answer was long in coming. Betton fidgeted at the 
delay, watched, wondered, fumed; then he received 
the one word "Impossible." 

He wrote back more urgently, and awaited the reply 
with increasing eagerness. A certain shyness had kept 
him from once more modifying the instructions re- 
garding his mail, and Strett stiU carried the letters 
directly to Vyse. The hour when he knew they were 
passing under the latter's eyes was now becoming in- 
tolerable to Betton, and it was a relief when the secre- 
tary, suddenly advised of his father's iUness, asked 
permission to absent himself for a fortnight. 

Vyse departed just after Betton had despatched to 
Florida his second missive of entreaty, and for ten days 
he tasted the joy of a first perusal of his letters. The 
answer from Florida was not among them; but Bet- 
ton said to himself "She's thinking it over," and de- 
lay, in that light, seemed favourable. So charming, in 
fact, was this phase of sentimental suspense that he 
felt a start of resentment when a telegram apprised 
him one morning that Vyse would return to his post 
that day. 

Betton had slept later than usual, and, springing 
out of bed with the telegram in his hand, he learned 

[ 184] 



FULL CIRCLE 

from the clock that his secretary was due in half an 
hour. He reflected that the morning's mail must long 
since be in; and, too impatient to wait for its appear- 
ance with his breakfast-tray, he threw on a dressing- 
gown and went to the library. There lay the letters, 
half a dozen of them: but his eyes flew to one envelope, 
and as he tore it open a warm wave rocked his heart. 

The letter was dated a few days after its writer 
must have received his own: it had all the qualities of 
grace and insight to which his unknown friend had ac- 
customed him, but it contained no allusion, however 
indirect, to the special purport of his appeal. Even a 
vanity less ingenious than Betton's might have read 
in the lady's silence one of the most familiar motions 
of consent; but the smile provoked by this inference 
faded as he turned to his other letters. For the upper- 
most bore the superscription "Dead Letter Office," 
and the document that fell from it was his own last 
letter from Florida. 

Betton studied the ironic ''Unknown" for an ap- 
preciable space of time; then he broke into a laugh. 
He had suddenly recalled Vyse's similar experience 
with '* Hester Macklin," and the light he was able to 
throw on that episode was searching enough to pene- 
trate all the dark comers of his own adventure. He felt 
a rush of heat to the ears; catching sight of himself in 
the glass, he saw a ridiculous congested countenance, 

[185] 



FULL CIRCLE 

and dropped into a chair to hide it between his fists. 
He was roused by the opening of the door, and Vyse 
appeared. 

"Oh, I beg pardon — ^you're ill?" said the sec- 
retary. 

Betton's only answer was an inarticulate murmur of 
derision; then he pushed forward the letter with the im- 
print of the Dead Letter Office. 

"Look at that," he jeered. 

Vyse peered at the envelope, and turned it over slowly 
in his hands. Betton*s eyes, fixed on him, saw his face 
decompose like a substance touched by some powerful 
acid. He clung to the envelope as if to gain time. 

"It's from the young lady you've been writing to 
at Swazee Springs?" he asked at length. 

"It's from the young lady I've been writing to at 
Swazee Springs." 

"Well — ^I suppose she's gone away," continued Vyse, 
rebuilding his countenance rapidly. 

"Yes; and in a community numbering perhaps a 
hundred and fifty souls, including the dogs and chick- 
ens, the local post-office is so ignorant of her move- 
ments that my letter has to be sent to the Dead Letter 
Office." 

Vyse meditated on this; then he laughed in turn. 
"After all, the same thing happened to me — ^with 
'Hester Macklin,' I mean," he suggested sheepishly. 

[186] 



PULL CIRCLE 

'* Just so/' said Betton» bringing down his clenched 
fist on the table. ^*Ju8t so/* he repeated, in italics. 

He caught his secretaiy's glance, and held it with 
his own for a moment. Then he dropped it as, in pity, 
one releases something scared and squirming. 

"The veiy day my letter was returned from Swazee 
Springs she wrote me this from there," he said, holding 
up the last Florida missive. 

"Ha! That's funny," said Vyse, with a damp fore- 
head. 

"Yes, it's funny," said Betton. He leaned back, his 
hands in Us pockets, staring up at the ceUing, and no- 
ticing a crack in the cornice. Vyse, at the comer of the 
writing-table, waited. 

"Shall I get to work?" he b^an, after a silence 
measurable by minutes. Betton's gaze descended from 
the cornice. 

"I've got your seat, haven't I?" he said politely, 
ruling and moving away from the tabk. 

Vyse, with a quick gleam of relief, slipped into the 
vacant chair, and b^an to stir about among the pa- 
pers. 

"How's your father?" Betton asked from the 
hearth. 

"Oh, better — better, thank you. He'll puU out 
of it." 

"But you had a sharp scare for a day or two?" 

[187] 



FULL CIRCLE 

"Yes — it was touch and go when I got there." 

Another pause, while Vyse began to classify the 
letters. 

"And I suppose," Betton continued in a steady 
tone, "your anxiety made you forget your usual pre- 
cautions — ^whatever they were — about this Florida cor- 
respondence, and before you'd had time to prevent it 
the Swazee post-office blundered ?" 

Vyse lifted his head with a quick movement. "What 
do you mean ?*' he asked, pushing back his chair. 

"I mean that you saw I couldn't live without flat- 
tery, and that you've been ladling it out to me to earn 
your keep." 

Vyse sat motionless and shrunken, digging the 
blotting-pad with his pen. "What on earth are you 
driving at?" he repeated. 

"Though why the deuce," Betton continued in the 
same steady tone, "you should need to do this kind of 
work when you've got such faculties at your service — 
those letters were wonderful, my dear fellow! Why in 
the world don't you write novels, instead of writing 
to other people about themP" 

Vyse straightened himself with an effort. "What are 
you talking about, Betton ? Why the devil do you think 
/ wrote those letters?" 

Betton held back his answer with a brooding face. 
"Because I wrote * Hester Macklin's' — ^to myself!" 

I 188] 



FULL CIRCLE 

Vyse sat stock-stilU without the least outcry of won- 
der. "Well ?•* he finally said, in a low tone. 

"And because you found me out (you see, you can't 
even feign surprise!) — because you saw through it at 
a glance, knew at once that the letters were faked. And 
when you'd foolishly put me on my guard by pointing 
out to me that they were a clumsy forgery, and had 
then suddenly guessed that I was the forger, you drew 
the natural inference that I had to have popular ap- 
proval, or at least had to make you think I had it. 
You saw that, to me, the worst thing about the failure 
of the book was having you know it was a failure. And 
so you applied your superior — ^your immeasurably 
superior — abilities to carrying on the humbug, and de- 
ceiving me as I'd tried to deceive you. And you did it 
so successfully that I don't see why the devil you 
haven't made your fortune writing novels!" 

Vyse remained silent, his head slightly bent under 
the mounting tide of Betton's denunciation. 

"The way you differentiated your people — charac- 
terised them — avoided my stupid mistake of making 
the women's letters too short and too logical, of letting 
my di£Ferent correspondents use the same expressions: 
the amount of ingenuity and art you wasted on it! I 
swear, Vyse, I'm sorry that damned post-office went 
back on you," Betton went on, piling up the waves of 
his irony. 

[189] 



FULL CIRCLE 

But at this height they suddenly paused, drew back 
on themselves, and b^an to recede before the sight of 
Vyse's misery. Something warm and emotional in Bet- 
ton's nature — a lurking kindliness, perhaps, for any 
one who tried to soothe and smooth his writhing ego — 
softened his eye as it rested on the figure of his sec- 
retary. 

"Look here, Vyse — ^I'm not sorry — ^not altogether 
Sony this has happened !" He moved across the room, 
and laid his hand on Vyse's drooping shoulder. ''In 
a queer illogical way it evens up things, as it were. I 
did you a shabby turn once, years ago — oh, out of 
sheer carelessness, of course — about that novel of yours 
I promised to give to Apthom. If I had given it, it 
might not have made any difference — ^I'm not sure it 
wasn't too good for success — ^but anyhow, I dare say 
you thought my personal influence might have helped 
you, might at least have got you a quicker hearing. 
Perhaps you thought it was because the thing vxu so 
good that I kept it back, that I felt some nasty jealousy 
of your superiority. I swear to you it wasn't that — I 
dean foigot it. And one day when I came home it was 
gone: you'd sent and taken it away. And I've always 
thought since that you might have owed me a grudge — 
and not unjustly; so this . . . this business of the let- 
ters . . . the sympathy you've shown ... for I suppose 
it is sympathy . . ?** 

[190] 



PULL CIRCLE 

Yyse startled and checked him by a queer crackling 
laugh. 

*'It's not sympathy?" broke in Betton, the moisture 
drying out of his voice. He withdrew his hand from 
Vyse's shoulder. "What is it, then? The joy of un- 
covering my nakedness ? An eye for an eye ? Is it that ? " 

Yyse rose from his seat, and with a mechanical 
gesture swept into a heap all the letters he had sorted. 

"I'm stone broke, and wanted to keep my job — ^that's 
what it is,'* he said wearily . . • 



(i«ii 



THE LEGEND 



THE LEGEND 



ARTHUR Bernald could never afterward recall 
just when the first conjecture flashed on hhn: 
oddly enough, there was no record of it in the agitated 
jottings of his diary. But, as it seemed to him in retro- 
spect, he had always felt that the queer man at the 
Wades* must be John Pellerin, if only for the negative 
reason that he couldn't imaginably be any one else. 
It was impossible, in the confused pattern of the cen- 
tury's intellectual life, to fit the stranger in anywhere, 
save in the big gap which, some five and twenty years 
earlier, had been left by Pellerin's disappearance; and 
conversely, such a man as the Wades' visitor couldn't 
have lived for sixty years without filling, somewhere in 
space, a nearly equivalent void. 

At all events, it was certainly not to Doctor Wade 
or to his mother that Bemald owed the hint: the good 
unconscious Wades, one of whose chief charms in the 
young man's eyes was that they remained so robustly 
untainted by PeUeiinism, in spite of the fact that 
Doctor Wade's younger brother, Howland, was among 
its most impudently flourishing high-priests. 

f 19«1 



THE LEGEND 

The incident had begun by Bemald's running across 
Doctor Robert Wade one hot summer night at the Uni- 
versity Club, and by Wade's saying, in the tone of un- 
professional laxity which the shadowy stillness of the 
place invited: *'I got hold of a queer fish at St. Martin's 
the other day — case of heat-prostration picked up in 
Central Park. YtThen we'd patched him up I found he 
had nowhere to go, and not a dollar in his pocket, and 
I sent him down to our place at Portchester to re- 
build." 

The opening roused his hearer's attention. Bob 
Wade had an instinctive sense of values that Bemald 
had learned to trust. 

"What sort of chap ? Young or old ? " 

"Oh, every age — full of years, and yet with a lot left. 
He called himself sixty on the books." 

"Sixty's a good age for some kinds of living. And 
age is purely subjective. How has he used his sixty 
years?" 

"Well — part of them in educating himself, appar- 
ently. He's a scholar — ^humanities, languages, and so 
forth." 

"Oh — decayed gentleman," Bemald murmured, dis- 
appointed. 

"Decayed? Not much!" cried the doctor with his 
accustomed literalness. "I only mentioned that side 
of Winterman — ^his name's Winterman — ^because it was 

[196] 



THE LEGEND 

the side my mother noticed first. I suppose women 
generaUy do. But it*s only a part — a small part. The 
man*s the big thing.'* 

"Really big?" 

"Well — ^there again. . .When I took him down to 
the country, looking rather like a tramp from a * Shelter/ 
with an untrimmed beard, and a suit of reach-me- 
downs he'd slept round the Park in for a week, I felt 
sure my mother'd carry the silver up to her room, and 
send for the gardener's dog to sleep in the hall. But 
she didn't," 

"I see. 'Women and children love him.' Oh, Wade!" 
Bemald groaned. 

"Not a bit of it! You're out again. We don't love him, 
either of us. But we feel him — ^the air's charged with 
him. You'll see." 

And Bemald agreed that he would see, the following 
Sunday. Wade's inarticulate attempts to characterise 
the stranger had struck his friend. The human revela- 
tion had for Bemald a poignant and ever-renewed 
interest, which his trade, as the dramatic critic of a 
daily paper, had hitherto failed to diminish. And he 
knew that Bob Wade, simple and undefiled by litera- 
ture — ^Bemald's specific affliction — ^had a free and 
personal way of judging men, and the diviner's knack 
of reaching their hidden springs. During the days that 
followed, the young doctor gave Bemald further de- 

[197] 



THE LEGEND 

tails about John Winterman: details not of fact — ^for in 
that respect the stranger's reticence was baffling — but 
of impression. It appeared that Wintennan» while 
lying insensible in the Park, had been robbed of the 
few dollars he possessed; and on leaving the hospital, 
still weak and half-blind, he had quite simply and un- 
protestingly accepted the Wades' offer to give him 
shelter till such time as he should be strong enough to 
work. 

** But what's his work ? " Bemald interjected. ** Hasn't 
he at least told you that ?" 

"Well, writing. Some kind of writing." Doctor Bob 
always became vague when he approached the confines 
of literature. "He means to take it up again as soon 
as his eyes get right." 

Bemald groaned again. "Oh, Lord — ^that finishes 
him; and me I He's looking for a publisher, of course — 
he wants a 'favourable notice.' I won't come!" 

"He hasn't written a line for twenty years." 

"A line of what f What kind of literature can one 
keep corked up for twenty years ?" 

Wade surprised him. "The real kind, I should say. 
But I don't know Wintennan's line»" the doctor 
added. "He speaks of the things he used to write 
merely as 'stuff that wouldn't sell.' He has a wonder- 
fully confidential way of not telling one things. But he 
says he'll have to do something for his living as soon 

[ 198] 



THE LEGEND 

as his eyes are patched up, and that writing is the only 
trade he knows. The queer thing is that he seems pretty 
sure of selling now. He even talked of buying the 
bungalow of us, with an acre or two about it/* 

"The bungalow? What's that?" 

"The studio down by the shore that we built for 
Howland when he thought he meant to paint." (How- 
land Wade, as Bemald knew, had experienced various 
"calls.") "Since he's taken to writing nobody's been 
near the place. I offered it to Winterman, and he 
camps there — cooks his meals, does his own house- 
keeping, and never comes up to the house except in 
the evenings, when he joins us on the verandah, in 
the dark, and smokes while my mother knits." 

"A discreet visitor, eh?" 

"More than he need be. My mother actually wanted 
him to stay on in the house — in her pink chintz room. 
Think of it! But he says houses smother him. I take it 
he's lived for years in the open." 

"In the open where?" 

"I can't make out, except that it was somewhere in 
the East. 'East of everything — beyond the day-spring. 
In places not on the map.' That's the way he put it; 
and when I said: 'You've been an explorer, then?' 
he smiled in his beard, and answered: 'Yes; that's it — 
an explorer.' Yet he doesn't strike me as a man of action : 
hasn't the hands or the eyes." 

[199] 



THE LEGEND 

*'What sort of hands and eyes has he?'* 

Wade reflected. His range of observation was not 
large, but within its limits it was exact and could give 
an account of itself. 

**He's worked a lot with his hands, but that's not 
what they were made for. I should say they were ex- 
traordinarily delicate conductors of sensation. And his 
eye — ^his eye too. He hasn't used it to dominate people: 
he didn't care to. He simply looks through 'em all like 
windows. Makes me feel like the fellows who think 
they're made of glass. The mitigating circumstance is 
that he seems to see such a glorious landscape through 
me." Wade grinned at the thought of serving such a 
purpose. 

"I see. I'll come on Sunday and be looked through!" 
Bemald cried. 

II 

Bernau) came on two successive Sundays; and the 
second time he lingered till the Tuesday. 

''Here he comes!" Wade had said, the first evening, 
as the two young men, with Wade's mother, sat on 
the verandah, with the Virginian creeper drawing, be- 
tween the arches, its black arabesques against a moon- 
lined sky. 

Bemald heard a step on the gravel, and saw the red 
flit of a cigar through the shrubs. Then a loosely-mov- 

[ 200 ] 



THE LEGEND 

ing figure obscured the patch of sky between the creep- 
ers, and the spark became the centre of a dim bearded 
face, in which Bemald, through the darkness, discerned 
only a broad white gleam of forehead. 

It was the young man's subsequent impression that 
Winterman had not spoken much that first evening; 
at any rate, Bemald himself remembered chiefly what 
the Wades had said. And this was the more curious be- 
cause he had come for the purpose of studying their 
visitor, and because there was nothing to distract his 
attention in Wade's slow phrases or his mother's art- 
less comments. He reflected afterward that there must 
have been a mysteriously fertilising quality in the 
stranger's silence: it had brooded over their talk like a 
rain-cloud over a dry country. 

Mrs. Wade, apparently fearing that her son might 
have given Bemald an exaggerated notion of their visi- 
tor's importance, had hastened to qualify it before the 
latter appeared. 

'*He's not what you or Howland would call intel- 
lectual — " (Bemald winced at the coupling of the 
names) — ^''not in the least literary; though he told 
Bob he used to write. I don't think, though, it could 
have been what Howland would call writing." Mrs. 
Wade always named her younger son with a reverential 
drop of the voice. She viewed literature much as she 
did Providence, as an inscrutable mystery; and she 

[201 ] 



THE LEGEND 

spoke of Howland as a dedicated being, set apart 
to perform secret rites within the veil of the sanctuaiy. 
**I shouldn't say he had a quick mind»" she con- 
tinued, reverting to Winterman. "Sometimes he hardly 
seems to follow what we're saying. But he's got 
such sound ideas — ^when he does speak he's never 
silly. And clever people sometimes are^ don't you 
think so ?" Bemald sighed an unqualified assent. "And 
he's so capable. The other day something went wrong 
with the kitchen range, just as I was expecting some 
friends of Bob's for dinner; and do you know, when 
Mr. Winterman heard we were in trouble, he came 
and took a look, and knew at once what to do ? I told 
him it was a dreadful pity he wasn't married!" 

Close on midnight, when the session on the verandah 
ended, and the two young men were strolling down to 
the bungalow at Winterman's side, Bemald's mind re- 
verted to the image of the fertilbing cloud. There was 
something brooding, pregnant, in the silent presence 
beside him: he had, in place of any circumscribing 
personal impression, a laige hovering sense of manifold 
latent meanings. And he felt a thrill of relief when, 
half-way down the lawn. Doctor Bob was checked by 
a voice that called him back to the telephone. 

"Now I'll be with him alone!" thought Bemald, 
with a throb like a lover's. 

[ 202 ] 



THE LEGEND 

Under the low rafters of the bungalow Winterman 
had to grope for the lamp on his desk, and as its light 
struck up into his face Bemald's sense of the rareness 
of the opportunity increased. He couldn't have said 
why, for the face, with its bossed forehead, its shabby 
greyish beard and blunt Socratic nose, made no direct 
appeal to the eye. It seemed rather like a stage on 
which remarkable things might be enacted, like some 
shaggy moorland landscape dependent for form and 
expression on the clouds rolling over it, and the bursts 
of light between; and one of these flashed out in the 
smile with which Winterman, as if in answer to his 
companion's thought, said simply, as he turned to fill 
his pipe: "Now we'll talk." 

So he'd known all along that they hadn't yet — and 
had guessed that, with Bemald, one might! 

The young man's sudden glow of pleasure left him 
for a moment unable to meet the challenge; and in that 
moment he felt the sweep of something winged and 
summoning. His spirit rose to it with a rush, but just 
as he felt himself poised between the ascending pin- 
ions, the door opened and Bob Wade reappeared. 

"Too bad! I'm so sorry! It was from Howland, to 
say he can't come to-morrow after all." The doctor 
panted out his news with honest grief. 

"I tried my best to pull it off for you, Winterman; 
and my brother vxints to come — he's keen to talk to 

[ 203 ] 



THE LEGEND 

you and see what he can do. But you see he's so 
tremendously in demand. He'll try for another Sun^ 
day later on." 

Wmterman gave an untroubled nod. ''Oh, he'll find 
me here. I shall work my time out slowly." He waved 
his hand toward the scattered sheets on the kitchen 
table which formed his desk. 

"Not slowly enough to suit us," Wade answered hos- 
pitably. "Only, if Howland could have come he might 
have given you a tip or two — ^put you on the right 
track — ^shown you how to get in touch with the public." 

Winterman, his hands in his pockets, lounged against 
the bare pine walls, twisting his pipe under his beard. 
"Does your brother enjoy the privilege of that con- 
tact?" he questioned gravely. 

Wade stared a little. "Oh, of course Howland's not 
what you'd call a popular writer; he despises that kind 
of thing. But whatever he says goes with — ^well, with 
the chaps who count; and every one tells me he's writ- 
ten the book on Pellerin. You must read it when you 
get back your eyes." He paused, as if to let the name 
sink in, but Winterman drew at his pipe with a blank 
face. "You must have heard of Pellerin, I suppose?" 
the doctor continued. "I've never read a word of him 
myself: he's too big a proposition for me. But one can't 
escape the talk about him. I have him crammed down 
my throat even in hospital. The internes read him at 

[«04] 



THE LEGEND 

the clinics. He tumbles out of the nurses' pockets. The 
patients keep him under their pillows. Oh, with most 
of them, of course, it's just a craze, like the last new 
game or puzzle: they don't understand him in the 
least. Howland says that even now, twenty-five years 
after his death, and with his books in everybody's 
hands, there are not twenty people who really under- 
stand Pellerin; and Howland ought to know, if anybody 
does. He's — ^what's their great word ? — interpreied him. 
You must get Howland to put you through a course of 
Pellerin." 

And as the young men, having taken leave of Winter- 
man, retraced their way across the lawn. Wade con- 
tinued to develop the theme of his brother's accom- 
plishments. 

*'I wish I covld get Howland to take an interest in 
Winterman: this is the third Sunday he's chucked us. 
Of course he does get bored with people consulting him 
about their writings — ^but I believe if he could only 
talk to Winterman he'd see something in him, as we 
do. And it would be such a god-send to the poor devil 
to have some one to advise him about his work. I'm 
going to make a desperate e£Fort to get Howland here 
next Sunday." 

It was then that Bemald vowed to himself that he 
would return the next Sunday at all costs. He hardly 

[ 205 ] 



THE LEGEND 

knew whether he was prompted by the impulse to 
shield Winterman from Howland Wade's ineptitude, 
or by the desire to see the latter abandon himself to 
the full shamelessness of its display; but of one fact 
he was assured — and that was of the existence in Win- 
terman of some quality which would provoke Howland 
to the amplest exercise of his fatuity. "How he'll draw 
him — ^how he'll draw him!" Bemald chuckled, with a 
security the more unaccountable that his one glimpse 
of Winterman had shown the latter only as a passive 
subject for observation; and he felt himself avenged 
in advance for the injury of Howland Wade's ex- 
istence. 

ni 

That this hope was to be frustrated Bemald learned 
from Howland Wade's own lips, the day before the 
two young men were to have met at Portchester. 

"I can't really, my dear fellow," the Interpreter 
lisped, passing a polished hand over the faded smooth- 
ness of his face. "Oh, an authentic engagement, I 
assure you: otherwise, to oblige old Bob I'd submit 
cheerfully to looking over his foundling's literature. 
But I'm pledged this week to the Pellerin Society of 
Kenosha: I had a hand in founding it, and for two 
years now they've been patiently waiting for a word 
from me — the Fiat Lux^ so to speak. You see it's a 

[ 206 ] 



THE LEGEND 

ministiy, Bemald — I assure you» I look upon my call- 
ing quite religiously/' 

As Bemald listened, his disappointment gradually 
changed to relief. Howland, on trial» always turned 
out to be too insufferable, and the pleasure of watching 
his antics was invariably lost in the impulse to put a 
sanguinary end to them. 

"If he'd only kept his beastly pink hands off Pel- 
lerin/' Bemald sighed, thinking for the hundredth 
time of the thick manuscript condemned to perpetual 
incarceration in his own desk by the publication of 
Rowland's ''definitive" work on the great man. One 
couldn't, after Rowland Wade, expose one's self to the 
derision of writing about Pellerin: the eagerness with 
which Wade's book had been devoured proved, not 
that the public had enough appetite for another, but 
simply that, for a stomach so undiscriminating, any- 
thing better than Wade had given it would be too 
good. And Bemald, in the confidence that his own 
work was open to this objection, had stoically locked 
it up. Yet if he had resigned himself to the fact that 
Wade's book existed, and was already passing into the 
inunortality of perpetual republication, he could not, 
after repeated trials, adjust himself to the author's talk 
about Pellerin. When Wade wrote of the great dead he 
was egregious, but in conversation he was familiar and 

[ 207 ] 



THE LEGEND 

fond. It might have been supposed that one of the 
beauties of Pellerin's hidden life and mysterious taking 
off would have been to guard him from the fingering of 
anecdote; but biographers like Howland Wade are 
bom to rise above such obstacles. He might be vague 
or inaccurate in dealing with the few recorded events 
of his subject's life; but when he left fact for conjecture 
no one had a firmer footing. Yiliole chapters in his vol- 
ume were constructed in the conditional mood and 
made up of hypothetical detail; and in talk, by the very 
law of the process, hypothesis became affirmation, and 
he was ready to tell you confidentially the exact circum- 
stances of Pellerin's death, and of the *' distressing 
incident" leading up to it. Bemald himself not only 
questioned the form under which this incident was 
shaping itself before posterity, but the very fact of its 
occurrence: he had never been able to discover any 
break in the dense doud enveloping Pellerin*s end. He 
had gone away — ^that was all that any of them knew: 
he who had so little, at any time, been with them or 
of them; and his going had so s ightly stirred the 
public consciousness that the news of his death, lacon- 
ically imparted from afar, had dropped unheeded into 
tne universal scrap-basket, to be long afterward fished 
out, with all its details missing, when some enquiring 
spirit first became aware, by chance encounter with a 

[208] 



THE LEGEND 

volume in a London book-stall, not only that such a 
man as John Pellerin had died» but that he had ever 
lived, or written. 

It need hardly be noted that Rowland Wade had not 
been the pioneer in question: his had been the safer 
part of swelling the chorus when it rose, and gradually 
drowning the other voices by his own. He had pitched 
his note so screamingly, and held it so long, that he 
was now the accepted authority on Pellerin, not only 
in the land which had given birth to his genius but 
in the Europe which had first acclaimed it; and it was 
the central point of pain in Bemald's sense of the sit- 
uation that a man who had so yearned for silence should 
have his grave piped over by such a voice as Wade's. 

Bemald's talk with the Interpreter had revived this 
ache to the momentary exclusion of other sensations; 
and he was still sore with it when, the next afternoon, 
he arrived at Portchester for his second Sunday with 
the Wades. 

At the station he had the surprise of seeing Winter- 
man's face on the platform, and of hearing from him 
that Doctor Bob had been called away to assist at an 
operation in a distant town. 

'*Mrs. Wade wanted to put you off, but I believe 
the message came too late; so she sent me down to 
break the news to you,*' said Winterman, holding out 
his hand. 

[ 200 ] 






THE LEGEND 

Perhaps because they were the first conventional 
words that Bemald had heard him speak, the young 
man was struck by the quality his intonation gave them. 
She wanted to send a carriage/' Winterman added, 
but I told her we'd walk back through the woods." 
He looked at Bemald with a kindliness that flushed 
the young man with pleasure. 

*' Are you strong enough ? It's not too far ?" 

"Oh, no. I'm pulling myself t<^ether. Getting back 
to work is the slowest part of the business: not on ac- 
count of my eyes — ^I can use them now, though not 
for reading; but some of the links between things are 
missing. It's a kind of broken spectrum . . . here, that 
boy will look after your bag." 

The walk through the woods remained in Bemald's 
memory as an enchanted hour. He used the word 
literally, as descriptive of the way in which Winterman's 
contact changed the face of things, or perhaps restored 
them to their deeper meanings. And the scene they 
traversed — one of those little untended woods that still, 
in America, fringe the tawdry skirts of civilisation — 
acquired, as a background to Winterman, the hush 
of a spot aware of transcendent visitings. Did he talk, 
or did he make Bemald talk ? The young man never 
knew. He recalled only a sense of lightness and libera- 
tion, as if the hard walls of individuality had melted, 
and he were merged in the poet's deeper interfusion, 

[ 210 ] 



THE LEGEND 

yet without losing the least sharp edge of self. This 
general impression resolved itself afterward into the 
sense of Winterman^s wide elemental range. His thought 
encircled things like the horizon at sea. He didn't, 
as it happened, touch on lofty themes — Bemald was 
gleefully aware that, to Howland Wade, their talk 
would hardly have been Talk at all — but Winterman's 
mind, applied to lowly topics, was like a lens that 
brought out microscopic delicacies and di£Ferenoes. 

The lack of Sunday trains kept Doctor Bob for two 
days on the scene of his surgical duties, and during 
those two days Bemald seized every moment of com- 
munion with his friend's guest. Winterman, as Wade 
had said, was reticent concerning his personal affairs, or 
rather concerning the practical and material questions 
to which the term is generally applied. But it was evi- 
dent that, in Winterman's case, the usual classification 
must be reversed, and that the discussion of ideas 
carried one much farther into his intimacy than 
familiarity with the incidents of his life. 

*' That's exactly what Howland Wade and his tribe 
have never understood about Pellerin: that it's much 
less important to know how, or even why, he disapp " 

Bemald pulled himself up with a jerk, and turned 
to look full at his companion. It was late on the Mon- 
day evening, and the two men, after an hour's chat 
on the verandah to the tune of Mrs. Wade's knitting- 

[211] 



THE LEGEND 

needles, had bidden their hostess good-night and strolled 
back to the bungalow together. 

"Come and have a pipe before you turn in," Winter- 
man had said; and they had sat on together till mid- 
night, with the door of the bungalow open on the 
heaving moonlit bay, and summer insects bumping 
against the chimney of the lamp. Winterman had just 
bent down to refill his pipe from the jar on the table, 
and Bemald, jerking about to catch him in the circle of 
lamplight, sat speechless, staring at a fact that seemed 
suddenly to have substituted itself for Winterman's 
face, or rather to have taken on its features. 

"No, they never saw that Pellerin's ideas wereFeU 
lerin. . /'He continued to stare at Winterman. "Just 
as this man's ideas are — ^why, are Pellerin!" 

The thought uttered itself in a kind of inner shout» 
and Bemald started upright with the violent impact 
of his conclusion. Again and again in the last forty- 
eight hours he had exclaimed to himself: "Thb is as 
good as Pellerin." Why hadn't he said till now: "This 
is Pellerin" ? . . Surprising as the answer was, he had 
no choice but to take it. He hadn't said so simply be- 
cause Winterman was better than Pellerin — that there 
was so much more of him, so to speak. Yes; but — it 
came to Bemald in a flash — ^wouldn't there by this 
time have been any amount more of Pellerin ? . . The 
young man felt actually dizzy with the thought. That 

[«12] 



THE LEGEND 

was it — ^there was the solution of the problem! This 
man was Pellerin, and more than Pellerin! It was 
so fantastic and yet so unanswerable that he burst 
into a sudden laugh. 

Winterman, at the same moment, brought his palm 
down with a crash on the pile of manuscript cover- 
ing the desk. 

"What's the matter?" Bemald cried. 

"My match wasn't out. In another minute the de- 
struction of the library of Alexandria would have been 
a trifle compared to what you'd have seen." Winter- 
man, with his large deep laugh, shook out the smoulder- 
ing sheets. "And I should have been a pensioner on 
Doctor Bob the Lord knows how much longer!" 

Bemald looked at him intently. " You've really got 
going again ? The thing's actually getting into shape ?" 

"This particular thing is in shape. I drove at it hard 
all last week, thinking our friend's brother would be 
down on Sunday, and might look it over." 

Bemald had to repress the tendency to another wild 
laugh. 

"Howland — ^you meant to show Howland what 
you've done?" 

Winterman, looming against the moonlight, slowly 
turned a dusky shaggy head toward him. 

"Isn't it a good thing to do?" 

Bemald wavered, torn between loyalty to his friends 

[218] 



THE LEGEND 

and the grotesqueness of answering in the aflinnative. 
After all, it was none of his business to furnish Winter- 
man with an estimate of Howland Wade. 

"Well, you see, you've never told me what your line 
itf,*' he answered, temporising. 

"No, because nobody's ever told me. It's exactly 
what I want to find out," said the other genially. 

"And you expect Wade ?" 

"Why, I gathered from our good Doctor that it's 
his trade. Doesn't he explain — interpret?" 

"In his own domain — ^which is Pellerinism." 

Winterman gazed out musingly upon the moon- 
touched dusk of waters. "And what is Pellerinism?" 
he asked. 

Bemald sprang to his feet with a cry. "Ah, I don't 
know — ^but you're Pellerin!" 

They stood for a minute facing each other, among 
the uncertain swaying shadows of the room, with the 
sea breathing through it as something immense and 
inarticulate breathed through young Bemald's thoughts; 
then Winterman threw up his arms with a humorous 
gesture. 

"Don't shoot!" he said. 



[214] 



THE LEGEND 



IV 



Dawn found them there, and the sun laid its beami? 
on the rough floor of the bungalow, before either 
of the men was conscious of the passage of time. 
Bemald, vaguely trying to define his own state in 
retrospect, could only phrase it : "I floated — 
floated . . /• 

The gist of fact at the core of the extraordinary 
experience was simply that John Pellerin, twenty-five 
years earlier, had voluntarily disappeared, causing the 
rumour of his death to be reported to an inattentive 
world; and that now he had come back to see what that 
world had made of him. 

"You'll hardly believe it of me; I hardly believe it of 
myself; but I went away in a rage of disappointment,, 
of wounded pride — no, vanity! I don't know which cut 
deepest — ^the sneers or the silence — but between them,, 
there wasn't an inch of me that wasn't raw. I had just 
the one thing in me: the message, the ciy, the revela- 
tion. But nobody saw and nobody listened. Nobody 
wanted what I had to give. I was like a poor devQ 
of a tramp looking for shelter on a bitter night, in 
a town with every door bolted and all the windows 
dark. And suddenly I felt that the easiest thing would 
be to lie down and go to sleep in the snow. Perhaps 
I'd a vague notion that if they found me there at day- 

[216] 



THE LEGEND 

light, frozen stiff, the pathetic spectacle might pro- 
duce a reaction, a feeling of remorse. . . So I took care 
to be found! Well, a good many thousand people die 
every day on the face of the globe; and I soon dis- 
covered that I was simply one of the thousands; and 
when I made that discovery I really died — and stayed 
dead a year or two. . . When I came to life again I was 
off on the under side of the world, in regions unaware 
of what we know as *the public' Have you any notion 
how it shifts the point of view to wake under ne^ con- 
stellations? I advise any who's been in love with a 
woman under Cassiopeia to go and think about her 
under the Southern ^Cross. . . It's the only way to tell 
the pivotal truths from the others. . . I didn't believe 
in my theory any less — ^there was my triumph and my 
vindication! It held out, resisted, measured itself with 
the stars. But I didn't care a snap of my finger whether 
anybody else believed in it, or even knew it had been 
formulated. It escaped out of my books — ^my poor 
still-bom books — like Psyche from the chrysalis, and 
soared away into the blue, and lived there. I knew then 
how it frees an idea to be ignored; how apprehension 
circumscribes and deforms it — Once I'd learned that, 
it was easy enough to turn to and shift for myself. I was 
sure now that my idea would live: the good ones are 
self-supporting. And meanwhile I had to learn to be 
so; and I tried my hand at a number of things . . . ad- 

[216] 



THE LEGEND 

venturous, menial, commercial. . . It's not a bad thing 
for a man to have to live his life — ^and we nearly all 
manage to dodge it. Our first round with the Sphinx 
may strike something out of us — a book or a picture 
or a sjrmphony; and we're amazed at our feat, and go 
on letting that first work breed others, as some animal 
forms reproduce each other without renewed fertilisa- 
tion. So there we are, committed to our first guess at 
the riddle; and our works look as like as successive 
impressions of the same plate, each with the lines a 
little fainter; whereas they ought to be — if we touch 
earth between times — as different from each other as 
those other creatures — jelly-fish, aren't they, of a kind ? 
— ^where successive generations produce new forms, and 
it takes a zoologist to see the hidden likeness. . . 

*^ Well, I proved my first guess, off there in the wilds, 
and it lived, and grew, and took care of itself. And I 
said, *Some day it will make itself heard; but by that 
time my atoms will have waltzed into a new pattern.' 
Then, in Cashmere one day, I met a fellow in a caravan, 
with a dog-eared book in his pocket. He said he never 
stirred without it — wanted to know where I'd been, 
never to have heard of it. It was my guess — in its twen- 
tieth edition! . . The globe spun round at that, and all 
of a sudden I was under the old stars. That's the way 
it happens when the ballast of vanity shifts! I'd lived 
a third of a life out there, unconscious of human opin- 

[217] 



THE LEGEND 

ion — because I supposed it was unconscious of me. 
But now — ^now! Oh, it was different. I wanted to know 
what they said. . . Not exactly that, either: I wanted to 

know what Vd made them wy. There's a difference 

And here I am/' said John Pellerin, with a pull at 
his pipe. 

So much Bemald retained of his companion's actual 
narrative; the rest was swept away under the tide of 
wonder that rose and submerged him as Pellerin — at 
some indefinitely later stage of their talk — picked up 
his manuscript and began to read. Bemald sat opposite, 
his elbows propped on the table, his eyes fixed on the 
swaying waters outside, from which the moon gradually 
faded, leaving them to make a denser blackness in the 
night. As Pellerin read, this density of blackness — 
which never for a moment seemed inert or unalive — 
was attenuated by imperceptible degrees, till a grey- 
ish pallor replaced it; then the pallor breathed and 
brightened, and suddenly dawn was on the sea. 

Something of the same nature went on in the young 
man's mind while he watched and listened. He was 
conscious of a gradually withdrawing light, of an inter- 
val of obscurity full of the stir of invisible forces, and 
then of the victorious fiush of day. And as the light 
rose, he saw how far he had travelled and what won- 
ders the night had prepared. Pellerin had been right 
in saying that his first idea had survived, had borne the 

[218] 



THE LEGEND 

test of time; but he had given his hearer no hint of the 
extent to which it had been enlarged and modified, of 
the fresh implications it no\^ unfolded. In a brief flash 
of retrospection Bemald saw the earlier books dwindle 
and fall into their place as mere precursors of this 
fuller revelation; then, with a leap of rage, he pictured 
Howland Wade's pink hands on the new treasure, and 
his prophetic feet upon the lecture platform. 



'*It won't do — oh, he let him down as gently as pos- 
sible; but it appears it simply won't do." 

Doctor Bob imparted the ineluctable fact to Bemald 
while the two men, accidentally meeting at their club 
a few nights later, sat together over the dinner they had 
immediately agreed to share. 

Bemald had left Portchester the morning after his 
strange discovery, and he and Bob Wade had not 
seen each other since. And now Bemald, moved by an 
irresistible instinct of postponement, had waited for 
his companion to bring up Winterman's name, and 
had even executed several conversational diversions in 
the hope of dela}dng its mention. For how could one 
talk of Winterman with the thought of Pellerin swell- 
ing one's breast ? 

*' Yes; the veiy day Howland got back from Kenosha 

[219] 



THE LEGEND 

I brought the manuscript to town, and got him to read 
it. And yesterday evening I nailed him, and dragged 
an answer out of him." 

"Then Howland hasn't seen Winterman yet?" 

''No. He said: 'Before you let him loose on me I'll 
go over the stuff, and see if it's at all worth while.'" 

Bemald drew a freer breath. "And he found it 
wasn't?" 

"Between ourselves, he found it was of no account 
at all. Queer, isn't it, when the man . . . but of course 
literature's another proposition. Howland says it's one 
of the cases where an idea might seem original and 
striking if one didn't happen to be able to trace its 
descent. And this is straight out of bosh — by Pellerin. . . 
Yes: Pellerin. It seems that everything in the article 
that isn't pure nonsense is just Pellerinism. Howland 
thinks Winterman must have been tremendously struck 
by Pellerin's writings, and have lived too much out 
of the world to know that they've become the text- 
books of modem thought. Otherwise, of course, he'd 
have taken more trouble to disguise his plagiarisms." 

"I see," Bemald mused. "Yet you say there is an 
original element?" 

"Yes; but unluckily it's no good." 

"It's not — conceivably — in any sense a development 
of Pellerin's idea: a logical step farther ?" 

*^Logic<d ? Howland says it's twaddle at white heat." 

[ 220 1 



THE LEGEND 

Bemald sat silent, divided between the satisfaction 
of seeing the Interpreter rush upon his fate, and 
the despair of knowing that the state of mind he 
represented was indestructible. Then both emotions 
were swept away on a wave of pure joy, as he reflected 
that now, at last, Howland Wade had given him back 
John Pellerin. 

The possession was one he did not mean to part 
with lightly; and the dread of its being torn from him 
constrained him to extraordinary precautions. 

*' You've told Winterman, I suppose? How did he 
take it?" 

'*Why, unexpectedly, as he does most things. You 
can never tell which way he'll jump. I thought he'd 
take a high tone, or else laugh it off; but he did neither. 
He seemed awfully cast down. I wished myself well 
out of the job when I saw how cut up he was." 

Bemald thrilled at the words. Pellerin had shared 
his own pang, then — ^the "old woe of the world" at 
the perpetuity of human dulness! 

"But what did he say to the charge of plagiarism— 
if you made it?" 

"Oh, I told him straight out what Howland said. 
I thought it fairer. And his answer to that was the rum- 
mest part of all." 

"What was it?" Bemald questioned, with a tre- 
mor. 

[ ^21 ] 



THE LEGEND 

"He said: 'That's queer, for I've never read Pel- 
lerin/" 

Bemald drew a deep breath. "Well — and I suppose 
you believed him?" 

"I believed him, because I know him. But the public 
won't — ^the critics won't. And if the plagiarism is a 
pure coincidence it's just as bad for him as if it were a 
straight steal — isn't it?" 

Bemald sighed his acquiescence. 

"It bothers me awfully," Wade continued, knitting 
his kindly brows, "because I could see what a blow it 
was to him. He's got to earn his living, and I don't 
suppose he knows how to do anything but write. At 
his age it's hard to start fresh. I put that to Howland--— 
asked him if there wasn't a chance he might do better if 
he only had a little encouragement. I can't help feeling 
he's got the essential thing in him. But of course I'm 
no judge when it comes to books. And Howland says 
it would be cruel to give him any hope." Wade paused, 
turned his wineglass about under a meditative stare, 
and then leaned across the table toward Bemald. 
"Look here — do you know what I've proposed to 
Winterman? That he should come to town with me 
to-morrow and go in the evening to hear Howland 
lecture to the Uplift Club. They're to meet at Mrs. 
Beecher Bain's, and Howland is to repeat the lecture 

that he gave the other day before the Pellerin Society 

[ 222 ] 



THE LEGEND 

at Kenosha. It will give Winterman a chance to get 
some notion of what Pellerin was : he'll get it much 
straighter from Howland than if he tried to plough 
through Pellerin's books. And then afterward — as if 
accidentally — I thought I might bring him and How- 
land together. If Howland could only see him and hear 
him talk, there's no knowing what might come of it. 
He couldn't help feeling the man's force, as we do; 
and he might give him a pointer — tell him what line 
to take. Anyhow, it would please Winterman, and take 
the edge off his disappointment. I saw that as soon as 
I proposed it." 

''Some one who's never heard of Pellerin ?" 

Mrs. Beecher Bain, large, smiling, diffuse, reached 
out through the incoming throng on her threshold to 
detain Bemald with the question as he was about to 
move past her in the wake of his companion. 

''Oh, keep straight on, Mr. Winterman!" she inter- 
rupted herself to call after the latter. "Into the back 
drawing-room, please! And remember, you're to sit 
next to me — in the comer on the left, close under the 
platform." 

She renewed her interrogative clutch on Bemald's 
sleeve. "Most curious! Doctor Wade has been telling 
me all about your friend — how remarkable you all 
think him. And it's actually true that he's never heard 

[ 223 ] 



THE LEGEND 

of Pellerin P Of course as soon as Doctor Wade told me 
me thaiy I said * Bring him ! ' It will be so extraordinarily 
interesting to watch the first impression. — ^Yes, do follow 
him, dear Mr. Bemald, and be sure that you and he 
secure the seats neict to me. Of course Alice Fosdick 
insists on being with us. She was wild with excitement 
when I told her she was to meet some one who'd never 
heard of Pellerin!" 

On the indulgent lips of Mrs. Beecher Bain conjec- 
ture speedily passed into affirmation; and as Bemald's 
companion, broad and shaggy in his visible new even- 
ing clothes, moved down the length of the crowded 
rooms, he was already, to the ladies drawing aside 
their skirts to let him pass, the interesting Huron of 
the fable. 

How far he was aware of the character ascribed to 

him it was impossible for Bemald to discover. He was 

as unconscious as a tree or a cloud, and his observer had 

never known any one so alive to human contacts and 

yet so secure from them. But the scene was playing 

such a lively tune on Bemald's own sensibilities that 

for the moment he could not adjust himself to the 

probable effect it produced on his companion. The 

young man, of late, had made but rare appearances in 

the group of which Mrs. Beecher Bain was one of the 

most indefatigable hostesses, and the Uplift Club the 

chief medium of expression. To a critic, obliged by his 

[224] 



THE LEGEND 

trade to cultivate convictions, it was the essence of 
luxuiy to leave them at home in his hours of ease; and 
Bemald gave his preference to circles in which less 
finality of judgment prevailed, and it was consequently 
less embarrassing to be caught without an opinion. 

But in his fresher days he had known the spell of 
the Uplift Club and the thrill of moving among the 
Emancipated; and he felt an odd sense of rejuvenation 
as he looked at the rows of faces packed about the 
embowered platform from which Howland Wade was 
presently to hand down the eternal verities. Many of 
these countenances belonged to the old days, when the 
gospel of Pellerin was unknown, and had required con- 
siderable intellectual courage to avow one's acceptance 
of the veiy doctrines he had since demolished. The 
latter moral revolution seemed to have been accepted 
as submissively as a change in hair-dressing; and it 
even struck Bemald that, in the case of many of the 
assembled ladies, their convictions were rather newer 
than their clothes. 

One of the most interesting examples of this readiness 
of adaptation was actually, in the person of Miss Alice 
Fosdick, brushing his elbow with exotic amulets, and 
enveloping him in Arabian odours, as she leaned for^ 
ward to murmur her sympathetic sense of the situation. 
Miss Fosdick, who was one of the most advanced ex- 
ponents of Pellerinism, had large eyea and a plaintive 

[ ^2^ ] 



THE LEGEND 

mouth, and Bernald had always fancied that she might 
have been pretty if she had not been perpetually ex- 
plaining things. 

*' Yes, I know — Isabella Bain told me all about him. 
(He can't hear us, can he ?) And I wonder if you realise 
how remarkably interesting it is that we should have 
such an opportunity now — I mean the opportunity to 
see the impression of Pellerinism on a perfectly fresh 
mind. (You must introduce him as soon as the lecture's 
over.) I explained that to Isabella as soon as she showed 
me Doctor Wade's note. Of course you see why, don't 
youP" Bernald made a faint motion of acquiescence, 
which she instantly swept aside. *'At least I think I 
can make you see why. (If you're sure he can't hear?) 
Why, it's just this — ^Pellerinism is in danger of becoming 
a truism. Oh, it's an awful thing to say! But then I'm 
not afraid of saying awful things! I rather believe it's 
my mission. What I mean is, that we're getting into 
the way of taking Pellerin for granted — as we do the 
air we breathe. We don't sufficiently lead our conscious 
life in him — we're gradually letting him become sub- 
liminal." She swayed closer to the young man, and he 
saw that she was making a graceful attempt to throw 
her explanatory net over his companion, who, evading 
Mrs. Bain's hospitable signal, had cautiously wedged 
himself into a seat between Bernald and the wall. 

**Did you hear what I was saying, Mr. Winterman ? 

[ 226 ] 



THE LEGEND 

(Yes, I know who you ar^, of course!) Oh, well, I don't 
really mind if you did. I was talking about you — about 
you and Pellerin. I was explaining to Mr. Bemald that 
what we need at this veiy minute is a Pellerin revival; 
and we need some one like you — to whom his message 
comes as a wonderful new interpretation of life — to 
lead the revival, and rouse us out of our apathy. . . 

"You see," she went on winningly, "it's not only the 
big public that needs it (of course thtir Pellerin isn't 
ours!) It's we, his disciples, his interpreters, we who 
discovered him and gave him to the world — ^we, the 
Chosen People, the Custodians of the Sacred Books, as 
Howland Wade calls us — it's we who are in perpetual 
danger of sinking back into the old stagnant ideals, 
and practising the Seven Deadly Virtues; it's tue who 
need to count our mercies, and realise anew what he's 
done for us, and what we ought to do for him! And 
it's for that reason that I urged Mr. Wade to speak 
here, in the very inner sanctuary of Pellerinism, ex- 
actly as he would speak to the uninitiated — to repeat, 
simply, his Kenosha lecture, * What Pellerinism Means'; 
and we ought all, I think, to listen to him with the hearts 
of little children — ^just as you will, Mr. Winterman — as 
if he were telling us new things, and we " 

"Alice, dear " Mrs. Bain murmured with a 

warning gesture; and Howland Wade, emerging be- 
tween the palms, took the centre of the platform. 

[ 227 ] 



THE LEGEND 

A pang of commiseration shot through Bemald as 
he saw him there, so innocent and so exposed. His 
plump pulpy body, which made his evening dress 
fall into intimate and wrapper-like folds, was like a 
wide surface spread to the shafts of irony; and the 
ripples of his voice seemed to enlarge the vulnerable 
area as he leaned forward, poised on confidential 
finger-tips, to say persuasively: "Let me try to tell you 
what Pellerinism means." 

Bemald moved restlessly in his seat. He had the 
sense of being a party to something not wholly honour- 
able. He ought not to have come; he ought not to have 
let his companion come. Yet how could he have done 
otherwise.^ John Pellerin's secret was his own. As 
long as he chose to remain John Winterman it was 
no one's business to gainsay him; and Bemald 's 
scruples were really justifiable only in respect of his 
own presence on the scene. But even in this respect 
he ceased to feel them as soon as Howland Wade b^an 
to speak. 

VI 

It had been arranged that Pellerin, after the meeting 
of the Uplift Club, should join Bemald at his rooms 
and spend the night there, instead of returning to 
Portchester. The plan had been eagerly elaborated by 

the young man, but he had been unprepared for the 

[ 228 ] 



THE LEGEND 

alacrity with which his wonderful friend accepted it. He 
was beginning to see that it was a part of Pellerin's won- 
derfulness to fall in, quite simply and naturally, with 
any arrangements made for his convenience, or tending 
to promote the convenience of others. Bemald perceived 
that his docility in such matters was proportioned to 
the force of resistance which, for nearly half a life- 
time, had kept him, with his back to the wall, fighting 
alone against the powers of darkness. In such a scale 
of values how little the small daily alternatives must 
weigh! 

At the close of Howland Wade's discourse, Bemald, 
chaiged with his prodigious secret, had felt the need 
to escape for an instant from the liberated rush of 
talk. The interest of watching Pellerin was so peril- 
ously great that the watcher felt it might, at any 
moment, betray him. He lingered in the drawing-room 
long enough to see his friend enclosed in a mount- 
ing tide, above which Mrs. Beecher Bain and Miss 
Fosdick actively waved their conversational tridents; 
then he took refuge, at the back of the house, in a small 
dim library where, in his younger days, he had dis- 
cussed personal immortality and the problem of con- 
sdousness with beautiful girls whose names he could 
not remember. 

In this retreat he surprised Mr. Beecher Bain, a 
quiet man with a mild brow, who was smoking a sur- 

[ 229 ] 



THE LEGEND 

leptitious cigar over the last number of the Strand. 
Mr. Bain, at Bemald's approach, dissembled the Strand 
under a copy of the Hibbert Journal^ but tendered his 
cigar-case with the remark that stocks were heavy 
again; and Bemald blissfully abandoned himself to 
this unexpected contact with reality. 

On his return to the drawing-rooms he found that 
the tide had set toward the supper-table, and when it 
finally carried him thither it was to land him in the 
welcoming arms of Bob Wade. 

''Hullo, old man! Where have you been all this 
time? — ^WintermanP Oh, he's talking to Howland: 
yes, I managed it finally. I believe Mrs. Bain has steered 
them into the library, so that they shan't be disturbed. 
I gave her an idea of the situation, and she was awfully 
kind. We'd better leave them alone, don't you think? 
I'm trying to get a croquette for Miss Fosdick." 

Bemald's secret leapt in his bosom, and he devoted 
himself to the task of distributing sandwiches and 
champagne while his pulses danced to the tune of the 
cosmic laughter. The vision of Pellerin and his Inter- 
preter, face to face at last, had a Titanic grandeur 
that dwarfed all other comedy. "And I shall hear of it 
presently; in an hour or two he'll be telling me about 
it. And that hour will be all mine — mine and his!" 
The dizziness of the thought made it difficult for Ber- 
nald to preserve the balance of the supper-plates he 

[ 230 ] 



THE LEGEND 

was distributing. Life had for him at that moment the 
completeness which seems to defy disint^ration. 

The throng in the dining-room was thickenings 
and Bemald's efforts as purveyor were interrupted 
by frequent appeals, from ladies who had reached 
repleteness, that he should sit down and tell them 
all about his interesting friend. Winterman's fame, 
trumpeted abroad by Miss Fosdick, had reached the 
four comers of the Uplift Club, and Bemald found 
himself fabricating de tovies piecea a Winterman legend 
which should in some degree respond to the Club's 
demand for the human document. When at length he 
had acquitted himself of this obligation, and was free 
to work his way back through the lessening groups into 
the drawing-room, he was at last rewarded by a glimpse 
of his friend, who, still densely encompassed, towered 
in the centre of the room in all his sovereign ugli- 
ness. 

Their eyes met across the crowd; but Bemald gath- 
ered only perplexity from the encounter. What were 
Pellerin's eyes saying ta him ? What orders, what con- 
fidences, what indefinable apprehension did their long 
look impart? The young man was still trying to 
decipher their message when he felt a tap on the arm, 
and turned to meet the rueful gaze of Bob Wade, 
whose meaning lay clearly enough on the surface of 
his good blue stare. 

[231] 



THE LEGEND 

"Well, it won't work — it won't work," the doctor 
groaned. 

"What won't?" 

"I mean with Howland. Winterman won't. Howland 
doesn't take to him. Says he's crude — ^frightfully crude. 
And you know Howland hates crudeness." 

"Oh, I know," Bemald exulted. It was the word he 
had waited for — ^he saw it now! Once more he was lost 
in wonder at Howland's miraculous faculty for always, 
as the naturalists said, being true to type. 

"So I'm afraid it's all up with his chance of writing. 
At least I can do no more," said Wade, discouraged. 

Bemald pressed him for further details. "Does 
Winterman seem to mind much? Did you hear his 
version?" 

"His version?" 

"I mean what he said to Howland." 

" Why, no. What the deuce was there for him to say ? " 

"What indeed? I think I'll take him home," said 
Bemald gaily. 

He turned away to join the circle from which, a few 
minutes before, Pellerin's eyes had vainly and enig- 
matically signalled to him; but the circle had dispersed, 
and Pellerin himself was not in sight. 

Bemald, looking about him, saw that during his 
brief aside with Wade the parfy had passed into the 
final phase of dissolution. People still delayed, in dimin- 

[ 232 ] 



THE LEGEND 

ishing groups, but the current had set toward the doors, 
and every moment or two it bore away a few more 
lingerers. Bemald, from his post, commanded the clear- 
ing perspective of the two drawing-rooms, and a rapid 
survey of their length sufficed to assure him that Pel- 
lerin was not in either. Taking leave of Wade, the 
young man made his way back to the drawing-room, 
where only a few hardened feasters remained, and then 
passed on to the library which had been the scene of 
the late momentous colloquy. But the library too was 
empty, and drifting back to the inner drawing-room 
Bemald found Mrs. Beecher Bain domestically putting 
out the candles on the mantel-piece. 

**Dear Mr. Bemald! Do sit down and have a little 
chat. What a wonderful privilege it has been! I don't 
know when I've had such an intense impression." 

She made way for him, in a comer of the sofa to 
which she had sunk; and he echoed her vaguely: 
"You were impressed, then ?" 

**I can't express to you how it affected me! As Alice 
said, it was a resurrection — it was as if John Pellerin 
were actually here in the room with us!" 

Bemald turned on her with a half-audible gasp. 
"You felt that, dear Mrs. Bain?" 

"We all felt it — every one of us! I don't wonder the 
Greeks — it was the Greeks? — regarded eloquence as 
a supernatural power. As Alice says, when one looked 

[ 238 ] 



THE LEGEND 

at Howland Wade one understood what they meant 
by the Afflatus." 

Beraald rose and held out his hand. "Oh, I see — it 
was Howland who made you feel as if Pellerin were in 
the room? And he made Miss Fosdick feel so too?" 

"Why, of course. But why are you rushing off?" 

"Because I must hunt up my friend, who's not 
used to such late hours." 

" Your friend ? " Mrs. Bain had to collect her thoughts. 
"Oh, Mr. Winterman, you mean? But he's gone 
already." 

"Gone?" Bemald exclaimed, with an odd twinge 
of foreboding. Remembering Pellerin's signal across 
the crowd, he reproached himself for not having an- 
swered it more promptly. There had been a summons 
in the look — and it was certainly strange that his 
friend should have left the house without him. 

"Are you quite sure?" he asked, with a startled 
glance at the clock. 

"Oh, perfectly. He went half an hour ago. But you 
needn't hurry away on his account, for Alice Fosdick 
carried him off with her. I saw them leave together." 

"Carried him off? She took him home with her, you 
mean?" 

"Yes. You know what strange hours she keeps. 

She told me she was going to give him a Welsh rabbit, 

and explain Pellerinism to him." 

[284] 



THE LEGEND 

"Oh, if she's going to explain " Bemald mur- 
mured. But his amazement at the news struggled with 
a confused impatience to reach his rooms in time to be 
there for his friend's arrival. There could be no stranger 
spectacle beneath the stars than that of John Pellerin 
carried off by Miss Fosdick, and listening, in the small 
hours, to her elucidation of his doctrines; but Bemald 
knew enough of his sex to be aware that such an ex- 
periment may appear less humorous to its subject 
than to the detached observer. Even the Uplift Club 
and its connotations might benefit by the attraction 
of the unknown; and it was conceivable that to a 
traveller from Mesopotamia Miss Fosdick might pre- 
sent elements of interest which she had lost for the 
frequenters of Fifth Avenue. There was, at any rate, 
no denying that the affair had become unexpectedly 
complex, and that its farther development promised to 
be rich in comedy. 

In the contemplation of these possibilities Bemald 
sat over his fire, listening for Pellerin's ring. He had 
arranged his modest quarters with the reverent care 
of a celebrant awaiting the descent of his deity. He 
guessed Pellerin to be careless of visual detail, but 
sensitive to the happy blending of sensuous impres- 
sions: to the spell of lamplight on books, and of a 
deep chair placed where one could watch the fire. 

[ 23^ 1 



THE LEGEND 

The chair was there, and Bemald, facing it across 
the hearth, already saw it filled by Pellerin's loung- 
ing figure. The autumn dawn came late, and even now 
they had before them the promise of some untroubled 
hours. Bemald, sitting there alone in the warm stillness 
of his room, and in the profounder hush of his expec- 
tancy, was conscious of gathering up all his sensibilities 
and perceptions into one exquisitely-adjusted instru- 
ment of notation. Until now he had tasted Pellerin's 
society only in unpremeditated snatches and had always 
left him with a sense, on his own part, of waste and 
shortcoming. Now, in the lull of this dedicated hour» 
he felt that he should miss nothing, and forget nothing, 
of the initiation that awaited him. And catching sight 
of Pellerin's pipe, he rose and laid it carefully on a 
table by the ann-chair . , . 

"No. I've never had any news of him," Bemald heard 
himself repeating. He spoke in a low tone, and with 
the automatic utterance that alone made it possible 
to say the words. 

They were addressed to Miss Fosdick, into whose 
neighbourhood chance had thrown him at a dinner, a 
year or so later than their encounter at the Uplift 
Club. Hitherto he had successfully, and intentionally* 
avoided Miss Fosdick, not from any animosity toward 

[ 236 ] 



THE LEGEND 

that unconscious instrument of fate, but from an intense 
reluctance to pronounce the words which he knew he 
should have to speak if they met. 

Now, as it turned out, his chief surprise was that 
she should wait so long to make him speak them. All 
through the dinner she had swept him along on a rapid 
current of talk which showed no tendency to linger 
or turn back upon the past. At first he ascribed her 
reserve to a sense of delicacy with which he reproached 
himself for not having credited her; then he saw that 
she had been carried so far beyond the point at which 
they had last faced each other, that she was finally 
borne back to it only by the merest hazard of asso- 
ciated ideas. For it appeared that the very next evening, 
at Mrs. Beecher Bain's, a Hindu Mahatma was to 
lecture to the Uplift Club on the Limits of the Sub- 
liminal; and it was owing to no less a person than 
Howland Wade that this exceptional privilege had been 
obtained. 

*'Of course How'and's known all over the world as 
the interpreter of Pellerinism, and the Aga Gautch, 
who had absolutely declined to speak anywhere in 
public, wrote to Isabella that he could not refuse 
anything that Mr. Wade asked. Did you know that 
Howland's lecture, 'What Pellerinism Means,' has 
been translated into twenty-two languages, and gone 
into a fifth edition in Icelandic? Why, that reminds 

[2S7] 



THE LEGEND 

me," Miss Fosdick broke off — "I've never heard what 
became of your queer friend — ^what was his name ? — 
whom you and Bob Wade accused me of spiriting 
away the night that Howland gave that very lecture 
at Hatty Bain's. And I've never seen you since you 
rushed into the house the next morning, and dragged 
me out of bed to know what I'd done with him!" 

With a sharp effort Bemald gathered himself to- 
gether to have it out. "Well, what did you do with 
him?" he retorted. 

She laughed her appreciation of his humour. "Just 
what I told you, of course. I said good-bye to him on 
Isabella's door-step." 

Bemald looked at her. "It's really true, then, that 
he didn't go home with you ?" 

She bantered back: "Have you suspected me, all 
this time, of hiding his remains in the cellar?" And 
with a droop of her fine lids she added: "I wish he 
had come home with me, for he was rather interesting, 
and there were things about Pellerinism that I think 
I could have explained to him." 

Bemald helped himself to a nectarine, and Miss 
Fosdick continued on a note of amused curiosity: 
"So you've really never had any news of him since 
that night?" 

"No — I've never had any news of him." 

"Not the least little message ?" 

[ 238 ] 



THE LEGEND 



**Not the least little message/' 

"Or a rumour or report of any kind ?" 

"Or a rumour or report of any kind." 

Miss Fosdick's interest seemed to be revived by the 
undeniable strangeness of the case. "It's rather creepy, 
isn't it ? What cmdd have happened ? You don't sup- 
pose he could have been waylaid and murdered ?" she 
asked with brightening eyes. 

Bemald shook his head serenely. "No. I'm sure he's 
safe — quite safe." 

"But if you're sure, you must know something." 

"No. I know nothing," he repeated. 

She scanned him incredulously. "But what's your 
theory — ^for you must have a theory ? What in the world 
can have become of him ?" 

Bemald returned her look and hesitated. "Do you 
happen to remember the last th ng he said to you — the 
very last, on the door-step, when he left you ?" 

"The last thing?" She poised her fork above the 
peach on her plate. "I don't think he said any- 
thing. Oh, yes — ^when I reminded him that he'd 
solemnly promised to come back with me and have a 
little talk he said he couldn't because he was going 
home." 

"Well, then, I suppose," said Bemald, "he went 
home." 

She glanced at him as if suspecting a trap. "Dear me, 

[ 239 ] 



THE LEGEND 

how flat! I always inclined to a mysterious murder. 
But of course you know more of him than you say." 

She began to cut her peach, but paused above a 
lifted bit to ask, with a renewal of animation in her 
expressive eyes: "By the way, had you heard that 
Howland Wade has been gradually getting farther and 
farther away from Pellerinism ? It seems he's b^un to 
feel that there's a Positivist element in it which is 
narrowing to any one who has gone at all deeply into 
the Wisdom of the East. He was intensely interesting 
about it the other day, and of course I do see what 
he feels. . . Oh, it's too long to tell you now; but if 
you could manage to come in to tea some afternoon 
soon — any day but Wednesday — ^I should so like to 
explain " 



[240 1 



THE EYES 



THE EYES 



WE had been put in the mood for ghosts, that 
evening, after an excellent dinner at our old 
friend Culwin's, by a tale of Fred Murchard's — the 
narrative of a strange personal visitation. 

Seen through the haze of our cigars, and by the 
drowsy gleam of a coal fire, Culwin's library, with its 
oak walls and dark old bindings, made a good setting 
for such evocations; and ghostly experiences at first 
hand being, after Murchard's opening, the only kind 
acceptable to us, we proceeded to take stock of our 
group and tax each member for a contribution. There 
were eight of us, and seven contrived, in a manner 
more or less adequate, to fulfil the condition imposed. 
It surprised us all to find that we could muster such a 
show of supernatural impressions, for none of us, 
excepting Murchard himself and young Phil Fren- 
ham — ^whose story was the slightest of the lot — ^had the 
habit of sending our souls into the invisible. So that, on 
the whole, we had every reason to be proud of our seven 
** exhibits," and none of us would have dreamed of ex- 
pecting an eighth from our host. 

[24S] 



THE EYES 

Our old friend, Mr. Andrew Culwin, who had sat 
back in his arm-chair, listening and blinking through 
the smoke circles with the cheerful tolerance of a wise 
old idol, was not the kind of man likely to be favoured 
with such contacts, though he had imagination enough 
to enjoy, without envying, the superior privileges of his 
guests. By age and by education he belonged to the 
stout Positivist tradition, and his habit of thought had 
been formed in the days of the epic struggle between 
physics and metaphysics. But he had been, then and 
always, essentially a spectator, a humorous detached 
observer of the inmiense muddled variety show of life, 
slipping out of his seat now and then for a brief dip 
into the convivialities at the back of the house, but never, 
as far as one knew, showing the least desire to jump on 
the stage and do a '"turn." 

Among his contemporaries there lingered a vagiie 
tradition of his having, at a remote period, and in a 
romantic clime, been wounded in a duel; but this legend 
no more tallied with what we younger men knew of 
his character than my mother's assertion that he had 
once been ''a charming little man with nice eyes'* cor- 
responded to any possible reconstitution of his physi- 
ognomy. 

"He never can have looked like anything but a 

bundle of sticks," Murchard had once said of him. 

''Or a phosphorescent log, rather," some one else 

[244] 



THE EYES 

amended; and we recognised the happiness of this de- 
scription of his small squat trunk, with the red blink of 
the eyes in a face like mottled bark. He had always 
been possessed of a leisure which he had nursed and 
protected, instead of squandering it in vain activities. 
His carefully guarded hours had been devoted to the 
cultivation of a fine intelligence and a few judiciously 
chosen habits; and none of the disturbances common 
to human experience seemed to have crossed his sky. 
Nevertheless, his dispassionate survey of the universe 
had not raised hb opinion of that costly experiment, and 
his study of the human race seemed to have resulted in 
the conclusion that all men were superfluous, and women 
necessary only because some one had to do the cook- 
ing. On the importance of this point his convictions 
were absolute, and gastronomy was the only science 
which he revered as a dogma. It must be owned that 
his little dinners were a strong argument in favour of 
this view, besides being a reason — ^though not the main 
one — ^for the fidelity of his friends. 

Mentally he exercised a hospitality less seductive 
but no less stimulating. His mind was like a forum, or 
some open meeting-place for the exchange of ideas: 
somewhat cold and draughty, but light, spacious and 
orderly — a kind of academic grove from which all the 
leaves have fallen. In this privileged area a dozen of 

us were wont to stretch our muscles and expand our 

[«45] 



THE EYES 

lungs; and, as if to prolong as much as possible the 
tradition of what we felt to be a vanishing institution, 
one or two neophytes were now and then added to our 
band. 

Young Phil Frenham was the last, and the most 
interesting, of these recruits, and a good example of 
Murchard's somewhat morbid assertion that our old 
friend ''liked 'em juicy." It was indeed a fact that 
Culwin, for all his dryness, specially tasted the lyric 
qualities in youth. As he was far too good an Epi- 
curean to nip the flowers of soul which he gathered for 
his garden, his friendship was not a disintegmting in- 
fluence: on the contrary, it forced the young idea to 
robuster bloom. And in Phil Frenham he had a good 
subject for experimentation. The boy was really intelli- 
gent, and the soundness of his nature was like the 
pure paste under a fine glaze. Culwin had fished him 
out of a fog of family dulness, and pulled him up 
to a peak in Darien; and the adventiue hadn't hurt 
him a bit. Indeed, the skill with which Culwin had con- 
trived to stimulate his curiosities without robbing them 
of their bloom of awe seemed to me a sufficient answer 
to Murchard's ogreish metaphor. There was nothing 
hectic in Frenham's efflorescence, and his old friend 
had not laid even a finger-tip on the sacred stupidities. 
One wanted no better proof of that than the fact that 

Frenham still reverenced them in Culwin. 

[246] 



THE EYES 

''There's a side of him you fellows don't see. I be- 
lieve that stoiy about the duel!" he declared; and it 
was of the veiy essence of this belief that it should impel 
him — ^just as our little party was dispersing — ^to turn 
back to our host with the joking demand: ''And now 
you've got to tell us about your ghost!" 

The outer door had closed on Murchard and the 
others; only Frenham and I remained; and the devoted 
servant who presided over Culwin's destinies, having 
brought a fresh supply of soda-water, had been laconi- 
cally ordered to bed. 

Culwin's sociability was a night-blooming flower, 
and we knew that he expected the nucleus of his group 
to tighten around him after midnight. But Frenham's 
appeal seemed to disconcert him comically, and he 
rose from the chair in which he had just reseated him- 
self after his farewells in the hall. 

"3fy ghost ? Do you suppose I'm fool enough to go 
to the expense of keeping one of my own, when there 
are so many charming ones in my friends' closets? — 
Take another cigar," he said, revolving toward me 
with a laugh. 

Frenham laughed too, pulling up his slender height 
before the chimney-piece as he turned to face his short 
bristling friend. 

"Oh," he said, "you'd never be content to share if 
you met one you really liked." 

[247] 



«( 



« 



THE EYES 

Culwin had dropped back into his aim-chair, his 
shock head embedded in the hoUow of worn leather, 
his little eyes glimmering over a fresh cigar. 
Liked — liked f Good Lord!'* he growled. 
Ah, you havcy then!*' Frenham pounced on him in 
the same instant, with a side-glance of victory at me; 
but Culwin cowered gnomelike among his cushions, 
dissembling himself in a protective cloud of smoke. 

"What's the use of denying it? You've seen every- 
thing, so of course you've seen a ghost!" his young 
friend persisted, talking intrepidly into the cloud. "Or, 
if you haven't seen one, it's only because you've seen 
two!" 

The form of the challenge seemed to strike our host. 
He shot his head out of the mist with a queer tortoise- 
like motion he sometimes had, and blinked approvingly 
at Frenham. 

"That's it," he flung at us on a shrill jerk of 
laughter; "it's only because I've seen two!" 

The words were so unexpected that they dropped 
down and down into a deep silence, while we con- 
tinued to stare at each other over Culwin's head, and 
Culwin stared at his ghosts. At length Frenham, with- 
out speaking, threw himself into the chair on the other 
side of the hearth, and leaned forward with his listening 
smile . . . 

[ ^^8 ] 



THE EYES 



n 



"Oh, of course they're not show ghosts — a collector 
wouldn't think anything of them . . . Don't let me 
raise your hopes . . . their one merit is their numerical 
strength: the exceptional fact of their being tioo. But, 
as against this, I'm bound to admit that at any moment 
I could probably have exorcised them both by asking 
my doctor for a prescription, or my oculist for a pair 
of spectacles. Only, as I never could make up my 
mind whether to go to the doctor or the oculist — ^whether 
I was afficted by an optical or a digestive delusion — I 
left them to pursue their interesting double life, though 
at times they made mine exceedingly uncomfortable . . . 

"Yes — uncomfortable; and you know how I hate 
to be uncomfortable! But it was part of my stupid 
pride, when the thing b^an, not to admit that I could 
be disturbed by the trifling matter of seeing two 

"And then I'd no reason, really, to suppose I was ill. 
As far as I knew I was simply bored — horribly bored. 
But it was part of my boredom — I remember — ^that I 
was feeling so unconunonly well, and didn't know how 
on earth to work off my surplus energy. I had come 
back from a long journey — down in South America and 
Mexico — and had settled down for the winter near 
New York, with an old aunt who had known Washing- 
ton Irving and corresponded with N. P. Willis. She 

[«49] 



/ 

/ 



THE EYES 

lived, not far from Irvington, in a damp Grothic yilla, 
overhung by Norway spruces, and looking exactly like 
a memorial emblem done in hair. Her personal appear- 
ance was in keeping with this image, and her own hair 
— of which there was little left — might have been sacri- 
ficed to the manufacture of the emblem. 

"I had just reached the end of an agitated year, 
with considerable arrears to make up in money and 
emotion; and theoretically it seemed as though my 
aunt's mild hospitality would be as beneficial to my 
nerves as to my purse. But the deuce of it was that as 
soon as I felt myself safe and sheltered my energy began 
to revive; and how was I to work it off inside of a 
memorial emblem ? I had, at that time, the illusion that 
sustained intellectual effort could engage a man's whole 
activity; and I decided to write a great book — ^I forget 
about what. My aunt, impressed by my plan, gave up 
to me her Gothic library, filled with classics bound in 
black cloth and daguerreotypes of faded celebrities; 
and I sat down at my desk to win myself a place among 
their number. And to facilitate my task she lent me 
a cousin to copy my manuscript. 

"The cousin was a nice girl, and I had an idea that 
a nice girl was just what I needed to restore my faith 
in human nature, and principally in myself. She was 
neither beautiful nor intelligent — ^poor Alice Nowell! — 
but it interested me to see any woman content to be so 

[ 250 ] 



THE EYES 

uninteresting, and I wanted to find out the secret of 
her content. In doing this I handled it rather rashly, 
and put it out of joint — oh, just for a moment! There's 
no fatuity in telling you this, for the poor girl had never 
seen any one but cousins . . . 

'* Well, I was sorry for what I'd done, of course, and 
confoundedly bothered as to how I should put it straight. 
She was staying in the house, and one evening, after 
my aunt had gone to bed, she came down to the library 
to fetch a book she'd mislaid, like any artless heroine 
on the shelves behind us. She was pink-nosed and 
flustered, and it suddenly occurred to me that her hair, 
though R was fairly thick and pretty, would look exactly 
like my aunt's when she grew older. I was glad I had 
noticed this, for it made it easier for me to decide to do 
what was right; and when I had found the book she 
hadn't lost I told her I was leaving for Europe that week. 

"Europe was terribly far off in those days, and Alice 
knew at once what I meant. She didn't take it in the 
least as I'd expected — ^it would have been easier if she 
had. She held her book very tight, and turned away a 
moment to wind up the lamp on my desk — ^it had a 
ground glass shade with vine leaves, and glass drops 
around the edge, I remember. Then she came back, 
held out her hand, and said: 'Good-bye.' And as she 
said it she looked straight at me and kissed me. I had 
never felt anything as fresh and shy and brave as her 

[«51] 



THE EYES 

kiss. It was worse than any reproach, and it made me 
ashamed to deserve a reproach from her. I said to 
myself: *I'll marry her, and when my aunt dies she'U 
leave us this house, and I'll sit here at the desk and 
go on with my book; and Alice will sit over there with 
her embroidery and look at me as she's looking now. 
And life will go on like that for any number of years.' 
The prospect frightened me a little, but at the time it 
didn't frighten me as much as doing anything to hurt 
her; and ten minutes later she had my seal ring on her 
finger, and my promise that when I went abroad she 
should go with me. 

''You'U wonder why I'm enkiging on this incident. 
It's because the evening on which it took place was the 
very evening on which I first saw the queer sight I've 
spoken of. Being at that time an ardent believer in a 
necessary sequence between cause and effect I naturally 
tried to trace some kind of link between what had just 
happened to me in my aunt's library, and what was to 
happen a few hours later on the same night; and so the 
coincidence between the two events always remained in 
my mind. 

''I went up to bed with rather a heavy heart, for I 
was bowed under the weight of the first good action I 
had ever consciously committed; and young as I was» 
I saw the gravity of my situation. Don't imagine from 
tbi3 th|tt I hi^d hitherto been an instrument of destruc- 

[ 252 ] 



THE EYES 

lion. I had been merely a haimless young man, who had 
followed his bent and declined all collaboration with 
Providence. Now I had suddenly undertaken to pro- 
mote the moral order of the world, and I felt a good 
deal like the trustful spectator who has given his gold 
watch to the conjurer, and doesn't know in what shape 
he'll get it back when the trick is over . . . Still, a glow 
of self-righteousness tempered my fears, and I said 
to myself as I undressed that when I'd got used to 
being good it probably wouldn't make me as nervous 
as it did at the start. And by the time I was in bed, and 
had blown out my candle, I felt that I really was getting 
used to it, and that, as far as I'd got, it was not unlike 
sinking down into one of my aunt's very softest wool 
mattresses. 

"I closed my eyes on this image, and when I opened 
them it must have been a good deal later, for my room 
had grown cold, and intensely still. I was waked by the 
queer feeling we all know — ^the feeling that there was 
something in the room that hadn't been there when I 
fell asleep. I sat up and strained my eyes into the dark- 
ness. The room was pitch black, and at first I saw 
nothing; but gradually a vague glimmer at the foot of 
the bed turned into two eyes staring back at me. I 
couldn't distinguish the features attached to them, but 
as I looked the eyes grew more and more distinct: they 
gave out a light of their own. 

[ ^^ ] 



THE EYES 

*'The sensation of being thus gazed at was far from 
pleasant, and you might suppose that my first impulse 
would have been to jump out of bed and hurl myself 
on the invisible figure attached to the eyes. But it 
wasn't — ^my impulse was simply to lie still ... I can't 
say whether this^ was due to an immediate sense of 
the uncanny nature of the apparition — ^to the certainty 
that if I did jump out of bed I should hurl myself on 
nothing — or merely to the benumbing effect of the eyes 
themselves. They were the very worst eyes I*ve ever 
seen: a man's eyes — but what a man! My first thought 
was that he must be frightfully old. The orbits were 
sunk, and the thick red-lined lids hung over the eye- 
balls like blinds of which the cords are broken. One 
lid drooped a little lower than the other, with the effect 
of a crooked leer; and between these folds of flesh, with 
their scant bristle of lashes, the eyes themselves, small 
glassy disks with an agate-like rim, looked like sea- 
pebbles in the grip of a star-fish. 

''But the age of the eyes was not the most unpleasant 
thing about them. What turned me sick was their ex- 
pression of vicious security. I don't know how else to 
describe the fact that they seemed to belong to a man 
who had done a lot of harm in his life, but had always 
kept just inside the danger lines. They were not the 
eyes of a coward, but of some one much too clever to 
take risks; and my gorge rose at their look of base 

[«54] 



THE EYES 

astuteness. Yet even that wasn't the worst; for as we 
continued to scan each other I saw in them a tinge of 
derision, and felt myself to be its object. 

"At that I was seized by an impulse of rage that 
jerked me to my feet and pitched me straight at the 
unseen figure. But of course there wasn't any figure 
there, and my fists struck at emptiness. Ashamed and 
cold, I groped about for a match and lit the candles. 
The room looked just as usual — ^as I had known it 
would; and I crawled back to bed, and blew out the 
lights. 

''As soon as the room was dark again the eyes reap- 
peared; and I now applied myself to explaining them 
on scientific principles. At first I thought the illusion 
might have been caused by the glow of the last embers 
in the chimney; but the fireplace was on the other side 
of my bed, and so placed that the fire could not 
be reflected in my toilet glass, which was the only 
mirror in the room. Then it struck me that I might 
have been tricked by the reflection of the embers 
in some polished bit of wood or metal; and though I 
couldn't discover any object of the sort in my line of 
vision, I got up again, groped my way to the hearth, 
and covered what was left of the fire. But as soon as 
I was back in bed the eyes were back at its foot. 

''They were an hallucination, then: that was plain. 
But the fact that they were not due to any external 

[ 255 ] 



THE EYES 

dupery didn't make them a bit pleasanter. For if they 
were a projection of my inner consciousness, what 
the deuce was the matter with that organ? I had 
gone deeply enough into the mystery of morbid patho- 
logical states to picture the conditions under which an 
exploring mind might lay itself open to such a midnight 
admonition; but I couldn't fit it to my present case. I 
had never felt more normal, mentally and physically; 
and the only unusual fact in my situation — ^that of hav- 
ing assured the happiness of an amiable girl — did not 
seem of a kind to sununon unclean spirits about my 
pillow. But there were the eyes still looking at me . . . 

"I shut mine, and tried to evoke a vision of Alice 
Nowell 's. They were not remarkable eyes, but they were 
as wholesome as fresh water, and if she had had more 
imagination — or longer lashes — ^their expression might 
have been interesting. As it was, they did not prove 
very efficacious, and in a few moments I perceived that 
they had mysteriously changed into the eyes at the foot 
of the bed. It exasperated me more to feel these glaring 
at me through my shut lids than to see them, and I 
opened my eyes again and looked straight into their 
hateful stare . . . 

''And so it went on all night. I can't tell you what 
that night was like, nor how long it lasted. Have you ever 
lain in bed, hoplessly wide awake, and tried to keep 
your eyes shut, knowing that if you opened 'em you'd 

[ £56 ] 



THE EYES 

see something you dreaded and loathed? It sounds 
easy, but it's devilish hard. Those eyes hung there and 
drew me. I had the vertige de VMme^ and their red 
lids were the edge of my abyss. . . I had known nervous 
hours before: hours when I'd felt the wind of danger 
in my neck; but never this kind of strain. It wasn't 
that the eyes were awful; they hadn't the majesty of 
the powers of darkness. But they had — ^how shall I 
say? — ^a physical effect that was the equivalent of a 
bad smell: their look left a smear like a snail's. And I 
didn't see what business they had with me» anyhow — 
and I stared and stared, trying to find out . . . 

"I don't know what effect they were trying to pro- 
duce; but the effect they did produce was that of mak- 
ing me pack my portmanteau and bolt to town early 
the next morning. I left a note for my aunt, explaining 
that I was ill and had gone to see my doctor; and as a 
matter of fact I did feel uncommonly ill — ^the night 
seemed to have pumped all the blood out of me. But 
when I reached town I didn't go to the doctor's. I 
went to a friend's rooms, and threw myself on a bed, 
and slept for ten heavenly hours. When I woke it was 
the middle of the night, and I turned cold at the thought 
of what might be waiting for me. I sat up, shaking, and 
stared into the darkness; but there wasn't a break in 
its blessed surface, and when I saw that the eyes were 
not there I dropped back into another long sleep. 

[«57] 



THE EYES 

"I had left no word for Alice when I fled, because 
I meant to go back the next morning. But the next 
morning I was too exhausted to stir. As the day went 
on the exhaustion increased, instead of wearing off 
like the fatigue left by an ordinary night of insomnia: 
the effect of the eyes seemed to be cumulative, and the 
thought of seeing them again grew intolerable. For two 
days I fought my dread; and on the third evening 
I pulled myself together and decided to go back the 
next morning. I felt a good deal happier as soon as I'd 
decided, for I knew that my abrupt disappearance, and 
the strangeness of my not writing, must have been very 
distressing to poor Alice. I went to bed with an easy 
mind, and fell asleep at once; but in the middle of the 
night I woke, and there were the eyes . . . 

""Well, I simply couldn't face them; and instead of 
going back to my aunt's I bundled a few things into a 
trunk and jumped aboard the first steamer for England. 
I was so dead tired when I got on board that I crawled 
straight into my berth, and slept most of the way over; 
and I can't tell you the bliss it was to wake from those 
long dreamless stretches and look fearlessly into the 
dark, knowing that I shouldn't see the eyes . . . 

"I stayed abroad for a year, and then I stayed for 
another; and during that time I never had a glimpse 
of them. That was enough reason for prolonging my 
stay if I'd been on a desert island. Another was, of 

[ 258 ] 



THE EYES 

course, that I had perfectly come to see, on the voyage 
over, the complete impossibility of my marrying Alice 
Nowell. The fact that I had been so slow in making 
this discovery annoyed me, and made me want to 
avoid explanations. The bliss of escaping at one stroke 
from the eyes, and from this other embarrassment, 
gave my freedom an extraordinary zest; and the longer 
I savoured it the better I liked its taste. 

''The eyes had burned such a hole in my conscious- 
ness that for a long time I went on puzzling over the 
nature of the apparition, and wondering if it would 
ever come back. But as time passed I lost this dread, 
and retained only the precision of the image. Then 
that faded in its turn. 

''The second year found me settled in Rome, where 

I was planning, I believe, to write another great book 

— a definitive work on Etruscan influences in Italian 

art. At any rate, I'd found some pretext of the kind 

for taking a sunny apartment in the Piazza di Spagna 

and dabbling about in the Forum; and there, one 

morning, a charming youth came to me. As he stood 

there in the warm light, slender and smooth and hya- 

cinthine, he might have stepped from a ruined altar — 

one to Antinous, say; but he'd come instead from 

New York,' with a letter (of all people) from Alice 

Nowell. The letter — ^the first I'd had from her since 

our break — ^was simply a line introducing her young 

[ 259 ] 



THE EYES 

cousin, Gilbert Noyes, and appealing to me to be- 
friend him. It appeared, poor lad, that he *had talent/ 
and 'wanted to write'; and, an obdurate family having 
insisted that his calligraphy should take the form of 
double entry, Alice had intervened to win him six 
months* respite, during which he was to travel abroad 
on a meagre pittance, and somehow prove his ability 
to increase it by his pen. The quaint conditions of the 
test struck me first: it seemed about as conclusive 
as a mediaeval 'ordeal/ Then I was touched by 
her having sent him to me. I had always wanted to 
do her some service, to justify myself in my own 
eyes rather than hers; and here was a beautiful 
occasion. 

" I imagine it's safe to lay down the general principle 
that predestined geniuses don't, as a rule, appear be- 
fore one in the spring sunshine of the Forum looking 
like one of its banished gods. At any rate, poor Noyes 
wasn't a predestined genius. But he toaa beautiful to 
see, and charming as a comrade. It was only when he 
began to talk literature that my heart failed me. I knew 
all the symptoms so well — ^the things he had 'in him,' 
and the things outside him that impinged ! There's the 
real test, after all. It was always — punctually, inevita- 
bly» with the inexorableness of a mechanical law — it 
was always the wrong thing that struck him. I grew 
to find a certain fascination ii| decidijog in advance 

[ 260 ] 



THE EYES 



exactly which wrong thing he'd select; and I acquired 
an astonishing skill at the game . . . 

*'The worst of it was that his Vetise wasn't of the too 
obvious sort. Ladies who met him at picnics thought 
him intellectual; and even at dinners he passed for 
clever. I, who had him under the microscope, fancied 
now and then that he might develop some kind of a 
slim talent, something that he could make 'do' and be 
happy on; and wasn't that, after all, what I was con- 
cerned with? He was so charming — he continued to 
be so charmmg— that he called forth all my charity in 
support of this argument; and for the first few months 
I really believed there was a chance for him . . . 

''Those months were delightful. Noyes was constantly 
with me, and the more I saw of him the better I liked 
him. T3is stupidity was a natural grace — it was as beau- 
tiful, really, as his eyelashes. And he was so gay, so 
affectionate, and so happy with me, that telling him 
the truth would have been about as pleasant as slitting 
the throat of some gentle animal. At first I used to 
wonder what had put into that radiant head the de- 
testable delusion that it held a brain. Then I b^;an to 
see that it was simply protective mimicry — an instinc- 
tive ruse to get away from family life and an office desk. 
Not that GUbert didn't--dear lad!— believe in him- 
self. There wasn't a trace of hypocrisy in him. He was 
sure that hb 'call' was irresistible, while to me it was 

I«61] 



THE EYES 

the saving grace of his situation that it vxisn% and 
that a little money, a little leisure, a little pleasure 
would have turned him into an inoffensive idler. 
Unluckily, however, there was no hope of money, and 
with the alternative of the office desk before him he 
couldn't postpone his attempt at literature. The stuff 
he turned out was deplorable, and I see now that I 
knew it from the first. Still, the absurdity of deciding 
a man's whole future on a first trial seemed to justify 
me in withholding my verdict, and perhaps even in 
encouraging him a little, on the ground that the human 
plant generally needs warmth to flower. 

''At any rate, I proceeded on that principle, and 
carried it to the point of getting his term of probation 
extended. When I left Rome he went with me, and we 
idled away a delicious summer between Capri and 
Venice. I said to myself: 'If he has anything in him, it 
will come out now, and it did. He was never more 
enchanting and enchanted. There were moments of 
our pilgrimage when beauty bom of murmuring siound 
seemed actually to pass into his face — but only tc issue 
forth in a flood of the palest ink . . . 

"Well, the time came to turn off the tap; and I knew 
there was no hand but mine to do it. We were back in 
Rome, and I had taken him to stay with me, not want- 
ing him to be alone in his 'pension when he had to face 
the necessity of renouncing his ambition. I hadn't, of 

[ 262 ] 



THE EYES 

oourae, relied solely on my own judgment in deciding 
to advise him to drop literature. I had sent his stuff 
to various people — editors and critics — and they had 
always sent it back with the same chilling lack of 
comment. Really there was nothing on earth to 
say 

''I confess I never felt more shabbily than I did on 
the day when I decided to have it out with Gilbert. 
It was well enough to tell myself that it was my duty 
to knock the poor boy's hopes into splinters — but I'd 
like to know what act of gratuitous cruelty hasn't been 
justified on that plea ? I've always shrunk from usurping 
the functions of Providence, and when I have to exer- 
cise them I decidedly prefer that it shouldn't be on an 
errand of destruction. Besides, in the last issue, who 
was I to decide, even after a year's trial, if poor Gilbert 
had it in him or not ? 

"The more I looked at the part I'd resolved to play, 
the less I liked it; and I liked it still less when Gilbert 
sat opposite me, with his head thrown back in the lamp- 
light, just as Phil's is now ... I'd been going over his 
last manuscript, and he knew it, and he knew that 
his future hung on my verdict — we'd tacitly agreed to 
that. The manuscript lay between us, on my table — 
a novel, his first novel, if you please! — and he reached 
over and laid his hand on it, and looked up at me with 

all his life in the look. 

[ 263 ] 



THE EYES 

''I stood up and cleared my throaty tiying to keep 
my eyes away from his face and on the manuscript. 

"*The fact is, my dear Gilbert/ I began 

"I saw him turn pale, but he was up and facing 
me in an instant. 

'"Oh, look here, don't take on so, my dear fellow! 
I'm not so awfully cut up as all that!' His hands were 
on my shoulders, and he was laughing down on me 
from his full height, with a kind of mortally-stricken 
gaiety that drove the knife into my side. 

"He was too beautifully brave for me to keep up 
any humbug about my duty. And it came over me sud- 
denly how I should hurt others in hurting him: myself 
first, since sending him home meant losmg him; but 
more particularly poor Alice Nowell, to whom I had 
so longed to prove my good faith and my desire to 
serve her. It really seemed like failing her twice to fail 
Gabert 

''But my intuition was like one of those lightning 

flashes that encircle the whole horizon, and in the same 

instant I saw what I might be letting myself in for if 

I didn't tell the truth. I said to myself: 'I shall have 

him for life* — and I'd never yet seen any one, man or 

woman, whom I was quite sure of wanting on those 

terms. Well, this impulse of egotism decided me. I was 

ashamed of it, and to get away from it I took a leap 

that landed me straight in Gilbert's arms. 

[ 264 ] 



THE EYES 

"*The thing's all right, and you're all wrong!* I 
shouted up at him; and as he hugged me^ and I laughed 
and shook in his clutch, I had for a minute the sense of 
self-complacency that is supposed to attend the footsteps 
of the just. Hang it all| making people happy has its 
charms 

"Gilbert, of course. Was for celebrating his emanci^ 
pation in some spectacular manner; but I sent him 
away alone to explode his emotions, and went to bed 
to sleep off mine. As I utidressed I began to wonder 
what their after-taste would be — so many of the finest 
don't keep! Still, I wasn't sorry, and I meant to empty 
the bottle, even if it did turn a trifle flat. 

"After I got into bed I lay for a long time smiling 
at the memoiy of his eyes-^his blissful eyes. . . Then 
I fell asleep, and when I woke the room was deathly 
cold, and I sat up with a jerk — ^and there were the other 
eyes . . . 

"It was three years since I'd seen them, but I'd 
thought of them so often that I fancied they could never 
take me unawares again. Now, with their red sneer on 
me, I knew that I had never really believed they would 
come back, and that I was as defenceless as ever against 
them ... As before, it was the insane irrelevance of 
their coming that made it so horrible. What the deuce 
were they after, to leap out at me at such a time? I 
had lived more or less carelessly in the years since I'd 

[ 265 ] 



THE EYES 

seen them, though my worst indiscretions were not 
dark enough to invite the searchings of their infernal 
glare; but at this particular moment I was really in what 
might have been called a state of grace; and I can't tell 
you how the fact added to their horror . . . 

"But it's not enough to say they were as bad as be- 
fore: they were worse. Worse by just so much as I'd 
learned of life in the interval; by all the damnable impli- 
cations my wider experience read into them. I saw now 
what I hadn't seen before: that they were eyes which 
had grown hideous gradually, which had built up their 
baseness coral-wise, bit by bit, out of a series of small 
turpitudes slowly accumulated through the industrious 
years. Yes — it came to me that what made them so 
bad was that they'd grown bad so slowly . . . 

"There they hung in the darkness, their swollen lids 
dropped across the little watery bulbs rolling loose in 
the orbits, and the puff of flesh making a muddy 
shadow underneath — and as their stare moved with my 
movements, there came over me a sense of their tacit 
complicity, of a deep hidden understanding between us 
that was worse than the first shock of their strangeness. 
Not that I understood them; but that they made it so 
clear that some day I should . . . Yes, that was the 
worst part of it, decidedly; and it was the feeling that 
became stronger each time they came back . . . 

"For they got into the damnable habit of coming 

[ 266 ] 



THE EYES 

back. They reminded me of vampires with a taste for 
young fleshy they seemed so to gloat over the taste of a 
good conscience. Every night for a month they came 
to claim their morsel of mine: since I'd nuule Gilbert 
lappy they simply wouldn't loosen their fangs. The 
coincidence almost made me hate him, poor lad, 
fortuitous as I felt it to be. I puzzled over it a good 
deal, but couldn't find any hint of an explanation except 
in the chance of his association with Alice Nowell. 
But then the eyes had let up on me the moment I had 
abandoned her, so they could hardly be the emissaries 
of a woman scorned, even if one could have pictured 
poor Alice chaiging such spirits to avenge her. That set 
me thinking, and I began to wonder if they would let 
up on me if I abandoned Gilbert. The temptation was 
insidious, and I had to stiffen myself against it; but 
really, dear boy! he was too charming to be sacrificed 
to such demons. And so, after aU, I never found out 
what they wanted . . /* 



m 

The fire crumbled, sending up a flash which threw 
into relief the narrator's gnarled face under its grey- 
black stubble. Pressed into the hollow of the chair- 
back, it stood out an instant like an intaglio of yellowish 
red-veined stone, with spots of enamel for the eyes; then 

[ «67 ] 



THE EYES 

the fire sank and it became once more a dim Rem- 
brandtish blur. 

Phil Frenham, sitting in a low chair on the opposite 
side of the hearth, one long arm propped on the table 
behind him, one hand supporting his thrown-back 
head, and his eyes fixed on his old friend's face, had 
not moved since the tale began. He continued to main- 
tain his silent immobility after Culwin had ceased to 
speak, and it was I who, with a vague sense of dis- 
appointment at the sudden drop of the story, finally 
asked: "But how long did you keep on seeing them?" 

Culwin, so sunk into his chair that he seemed like a 
heap of his own empty clothes, stirred a little, as if in 
surprise at my question. He appeared to have half- 
foigotten what he had been telling us. 

"How long? Oh, off and on all that winter. It was 
infernal. I never got used to them. I grew really 
iU." 

Frenham shifted his attitude, and as he did so his 
elbow struck against a small mirror in a bronze frame 
standing on the table behind him. He turned and 
changed its angle slightly; then he resumed his former 
attitude, his dark head thrown back on his lifted palm, 
his eyes intent on Culwin's face. Something in his 
silent gaze embarrassed me, and as if to divert atten- 
tion from it I pressed on with another question: 

"And you never tried sacrificing Noyes?** 

[ 268 ] 



THE EYES 



''Oh, no. The fact is I didn't have to. He did it for 
me, poor boy!" 

"Did it for you ? How do you mean ?" 

"He wore me out — ^wore everybody out. He kept 
on pouring out his lamentable twaddle, and hawking 
it up and down the place till he became a thing of 
terror. I tried to wean him from writing — oh, ever so 
gently, you understand, by throwing him with agreeable 
people, giving him a chance to make himself felt, to 
come to a sense of what he really had to give. I*d fore- 
seen this solution from the b^inning — felt sure that, 
once the first ardour of authorship was quenched, he'd 
drop into his place as a charming parasitic thing, the 
kind of chronic Cherubino for whom, in old societies, 
there's always a seat at table, and a shelter behind the 
ladies' skirts. I saw him take his place as 'the poet': 
the poet who doesn't write. One knows the type in 
eveiy drawing-room. Living in that way doesn't cost 
much — ^I'd worked it all out in my mind, and felt sure 
that, with a little help, he could manage it for the next 
few years; and meanwhile he'd be sure to many. I 
saw him married to a widow, rather older, with a good 
cook and a well-run house. And I actually had my 
eye on the widow . . . Meanwhile I did eveiything to 
help the transition — lent him money to ease his con- 
science, introduced him to pretty women to make him 
forget his vows. But nothing would do him: he had but 

[ 260 ] 



THE EYES 

one idea in his beautiful obstinate head. He wanted 
the laurel and not the rose, and he kept on repeating 
Gautier's axiom, and battering and filing at his limp 
prose till he'd spread it out over Lord knows how ma/iy 
hundred pages. Now and then he would send a barrelful 
to a publisher, and of course it would always come back. 

''At first it didn't matter — ^he thought he was 'mis- 
understood.' He took the attitudes of genius, and when- 
ever an opus came home he wrote another to keep it 
company. Then he had a reaction of despair, and 
accused me of deceiving him, and Lord knows what. 
I got angry at that, and told him it was he who had 
deceived himself. He'd come to me determined to write, 
and I'd done my best to help him. That was the extent 
of my offence, and I'd done it for his cousin's sake, 
not his. 

"That seemed to strike home, and he didn't answer 
for a minute. Then he said: 'My time's up and my 
money's up. What do you think I'd better do?' 
'I think you'd better not be an ass,' I said. 
'What do you mean by being an ass?' he asked. 
I took a letter from my desk and held it out to 
him. 

"'I mean refusing this offer of Mrs. EUinger's: to be 
her secretary at a salary of five thousand dollars. There 
may be a lot more in it than that.' 

"He flung out his hand with a violence that struck 

[ 270 ] 









THE EYES 

the letter from mine. 'Oh» I know well enough what's 
in it!' he said, red to the roots of his hair. 

'And what's the answer, if you know?' I asked. 
He made none at the minute, but turned away 
slowly to the door. There, with his hand on the thresh- 
old, he stopped to say, almost under his breath: 'Then 
you really think my stuff's no good ?' 

''I was tired and exasperated, and I laughed. I don't 
defend my laugh — it was in wretched taste. But I must 
plead in extenuation that the boy was a fool, and that 
I'd done my best for him — I really had. 

''He went out of the room, shutting the door quietly 

after him. That afternoon I left for Frascati, where I'd 

promised to spend the Sunday with some friends. I 

was glad to escape from Gilbert, and by the same token, 

as I learned that night, I had also escaped from the 

eyes. I dropped into the same lethaigic sleep that had 

come to me before when I left off seeing them; and 

when I woke the next morning, in my peaceful room 

above the ilexes, I felt the utter weariness and deep 

relief that always followed on that sleep. I put in 

two blessed nights at Frascati, and when I got back to 

my rooms in Rome I found that Gilbert had gone . . . 

Oh, nothing tragic had happened — the episode never 

rose to that. He'd simply packed his manuscripts and 

left for America — ^for his family and the Wall Street 

desk. He left a decent enough note to tell me of his 

[«71] 



THE EYES 

decision, and behaved altogether, in the circumstanoes, 
as little like a fool as it's possible for a fool to 
behave . . .** 

IV 

CuLWiN paused again, and Frenham still sat motion- 
less, the dusky contour of his young head reflected in 
the mirror at his back. 

"'And what became of Noyes afterward ?*' I finally 
asked, still disquieted by a sense of incompleteness, by 
the need of some connecting thread between the parallel 
lines of the tale. 

Culwin twitched his shoulders. **Oh, nothing became 
of him — ^because he became nothing. There could be 
no question of 'becoming' about it. He vegetated in an 
office, I believe, and finally got a clerkship in a consu- 
late, and married drearily in China. I saw him once in 
Hong Kong, years afterward. He was fat and hadn't 
shaved. I was told he drank. He didn't recognise 



me. 



<( 



And the eyes ?" I asked, after another pause which 

Frenham's continued silence made oppressive. 

Culwin, stroking his chin, blinked at me meditatively 

through the shadows. *'I never saw them after my last 

talk with Gilbert. Put two and two together if you can. 

For my part, I haven't found the link." 

He rose, his hands in his pockets, and walked stiffly 

[ 272 ] 



THE EYES 

over to the table on which reviving drinks had been set 
out. 

"You must be parched after this diy tale. Here, help 

yourself, my dear fellow. Here, Phil '* He turned 

back to the hearth. 

Frenham made no response to his host^s hospitable 
summons. He still sat in his low chair without moving, 
but as Culwin advanced toward him, their eyes met 
in a long look; after which the young man, turning 
suddenly, flung his arms across the table behind him, 
and dropped his face upon them. 

Culwin, at the unexpected gesture, stopped short, 
a flush on his face. 

"Phil — ^what the deuce? Why, have the eyes scared 
you ? My dear boy — my dear fellow — I never had such 
a tribute to my literaiy ability, never!" 

He broke into a chuckle at the thought, and halted 
on the hearth-rug, his hands still in his pockets, gaz- 
ing down at the youth's bowed head. Then, as Fren- 
ham still made no answer, he moved a step or two 
nearer. 

"Cheer up, my dear Phil! It's years since I've seen 
them — ^apparently I've done nothing lately bad enough 
to call them out of chaos. Unless my present evocation 
of them has made you see them; which would be their 
worst stroke yet!" 

His bantering appeal quivered off into an uneasy 

[ 273 ] 



THE EYES 

laugh, and he moved still nearer, bending over Fren- 
ham, and laying his gouty hands on the lad's shoulders. 

"Phil, my dear boy, really — ^what's the matter? 
Why don't you answer ? Have you seen the eyes ?" 

Frenham's face was still hidden, and from where I 
stood behind Culwin I saw the latter, as if under the 
rebuff of this unaooountable attitude, draw back slowly 
from his friend. As he did so, the light of the lamp 
on the table fell full on his congested face, and I caught 
its reflection in the mirror behind Frenham's head. 

Culwin saw the reflection also. He paused, his face 
level with the mirror, as if scarcely recognising the coun- 
tenance in it as his own. But as he looked his expression 
gradually changed, and for an appreciable space of 
time he and the image in the glass confronted each 
other with a glare of slowly gathering hate. Then Cul- 
win let go on Frenham's shoulders, and drew back a 

step . • • 

Frenham, his face still hidden, did not stir. 



[«74] 



THE BLOND BEAST 



THE BLOND BEAST 



IT had been almost too easy — ^that was young Mill- 
ner's first feeling, as he stood again on the Spence 
doorstep, the great moment of his interview behind 
him, and Fifth Avenue rolling its grimy Paoolus at 
his feet. 

Halting here in the winter light, with the dang of 
the vestibule doors in his ears, and his eyes carried down 
the perspective of the packed interminable thorough- 
fare, he even dared to remember Rastignac's apostrophe 
to Paris, and to hazard recklessly under his small fair 
moustache: "Who knows?" 

He, Hugh Millner, at any rate, knew a good deal 
already: a good deal more than he had imagined it 
possible to learn in half an hour's talk with a man like 
Orlando G. Spence; and the loud-rumouring dty spread 
out before him seemed to grin like an accomplice who 
knew the rest. 

A gust of wind, whirling down from the dizzy height 
of the building on the next comer, drove through his 
shabby overcoat and compelled him to clutch hurriedly 

[ 277 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

at his hat. It was a bitter Januaiy day» a day of fierce 
light and air» when the sunshine cut like icicles and the 
wind sucked one into black gulfs at the street comers. 
But Millner's complacency was like a warm lining to 
his coat, and having steadied his hat he continued to 
stand on the Spence threshold, lost in the vision re- 
vealed to him from the Pisgah of its marble steps. Yes, 
it was wonderful what the vision showed him. . . In his 
absorption he might have frozen fast to the doorstep if 
the Rhadamanthine portals behind him had not sud- 
denly opened to let out a slim fur-coated figure, the 
figure, as he perceived, of the youth whom he had 
caught in the act of withdrawal as he entered Mr. 
Spence 's study, and whom the latter, with a wave of 
his affable hand, had detained to introduce as *'my 
son Draper." 

It was characteristic of the odd friendliness of the 
whole scene that the great man should have thought it 
worth while to call back and name his heir to a mere 
humble applicant like Millner; and that the heir 
should shed on him, from a pale high-browed face, a 
smile of such deprecating kindness. It was character- 
istic, equally, of Millner, that he should at once mark 
the narrowness of the shoulders sustaining this ingenu- 
ous head; a narrowness, as he now observed, imper- 
fectly concealed by the fur collar of young ^pence's ex- 
pensive and badly cut coat. But the face took on, as 

[ 278 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

the youth smiled his pleasure at their second meeting, 
a look of almost plaintive goodwill: the kind of look 
that Millner scorned and yet could never quite resist. 

"Mr. Millner? Are you — er — ^waiting?" the lad 
asked, with an intention of serviceableness that was 
like a finer echo of his father's cordiality. 

"For my motor? No/' Millner jested in his frank 
free voice. "The fact is, I was just standing here lost 
in the contemplation of my luck" — ^and as his com- 
panion's pale blue eyes seemed to shape a question: 
"my extraordinary luck," he explained, "in having 
been engaged as your father's secretary." 

"Oh," the other rejoined, with a faint colour in his 
cheek. "I'm so glad," he murmured; "but I was 
sure — " He stopped, and the two looked kindly at each 
other. 

Millner averted his gaze first, almost fearful of its 
betraying the added sense of his own strength and 
dexterity which he drew from the contrast of the other's 
frailness. 

"Sure? How could any one be sure? I don't believe 
in it yet ! " he laughed out in the irony of his triumph. 

The boy's words did not sound like a mere civility — 
MiUner felt in them an homage to his power. 

"Oh, yes: I was sure, young Draper repeated. 
"Sure as soon as I saw you, I mean." 

Millner tingled again with this tribute to his physical 

[ 279 1 



THE BLOND BEAST 

straightness and bloom. Yes, he looked his part, hang 
it — he looked it! 

But his companion still lingered, a shy sociability 
in his eye. 

"If you're walking, then, may I go along a little 
way?" And he nodded southward down the shabby 
gaudy avenue. 

That, again, was part of the wild comedy of the hour 
— ^that Millner should descend the Spence steps at 
young Spence's side, and stroll down Fifth Avenue with 
him at the proudest moment of the afternoon; O. G. 
Spence's secretary walking abroad with O. G. Spence's 
heir! He had the scientific detachment to pull out his 
watch and furtively note the hour. Yes — it was exactly 
forty minutes since he had rung the Spence door-bell 
and handed his card to a gelid footman, who, openly 
sceptical of his claim to be received, had left him un- 
ceremoniously planted on the cold tessellations of the 
vestibule. 

("Some day," Millner grinned to himself, "I think 
I'll take that footman as furnace-man — or to do the 
boots." And he pictured his marble palace rising from 
the earth to form the mausoleum of a footman's pride.) 

Only forty minutes ago! And now he had his oppor- 
tunity fast! And he never meant to let it go! It was in- 
credible, what had happened in the interval. He had 
gone up the Spence steps an unknown young man, out 

[ £80 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

of a job, and with no substantial hope of getting into 
one: a needy young man with a mother and two 
sisters to be helped, and a lengthening figure of debt 
that stood by his bed through the anxious nights. And 
he went down the steps with his present assured, and 
his future lit by the hues of the rainbow above the pot 
of gold. Certainly a fellow who made his way at that 
rate had it ^Mn him," and could afford to trust his star. 

Descending from this joyous flight he stooped his 
ear to the discourse of young Spence. 

"My father'll work you rather hard, you know: but 
you look as if you wouldn't mind that." 

MiUner pulled up his inches with the self-conscious- 
ness of the man who has none to waste. "Oh, no, I 
shan't mind that: I don't mind any amount of work if 
it leads to something." 

"Just so," Draper Spence assented eagerly. "That's 
what I feel. And you'll find that whatever my father 
undertakes leads to such awfully fine things." 

Millner tightened his lips on a grin. He was thinking 
only of where the work would lead him, not in the least 
of where it might land the eminent Orlando 6. Spence. 
But he looked at his companion sympatheticaUy. 

"You're a philanthropist like your father, I see?" 

"Oh, I don't know." They had paused at a crossing, 
and young Draper, with a dubious air, stood striking 
his agate-headed stick against the curb-stone. "I be- 

[881] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

lieve in a purpose, don't you?" he asked, lifting his 
blue eyes suddenly to MiUner's face. 

''A purpose? I should rather say so! I believe in 
nothing else/' cried Millner, feeling as if his were 
something he could grip in his hand and swing like 
a club. 

Young Spence seemed relieved. "Yes — I tie up to 
that. There is a Purpose. And so, after all, even if I 
don't agree with my father on minor points . . ." He 
coloured quickly, and looked again at Millner. "I 
should like to talk to you about this some day." 

Millner smothered another smile. '* We'll have lots 
of talks, I hope." 

"Oh, if you can spare the time — !" said Draper, 
almost humbly. 

"Why, I shall be there on tap!" 

"For father, not me." Draper hesitated, with another 
self-confessing smile. "Father thinks I talk too much — 
that I keep going in and out of things. He doesn't be- 
lieve in analysing: he thinks it's destructive. But it 
hasn't destroyed my ideals." He looked wistfully up 
and down the clanging street. "And that's the main 
thing, isn't it ? I mean, that one should have an Ideal." 
He turned back almost gaily to Millner. "I suspect 
you're a revolutionist too!" 

"Revolutionist? Rather! I belong to the Red Syndi- 
cate and the Black Hand!" Millner joyfully assented. 

[ 282 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

Young Draper chuckled at the enonnity of the joke. 
" First rate ! We'll have incendiary meetings ! ** He pulled 
an elaborately armorial watch from under his enfolding 
furs. *'I'm so sorry, but I must say good-bye — ^this is 
my street/' he explained. 

Millner, with a faint twinge of envy, glanced across 
at the colonnaded marble edifice on the farther comer. 
*' Going to the club?" he said carelessly. 

EQs companion looked surprised. "Oh, no: I never 
go there. It's too boring." And he jerked out, after 
one of the pauses in which he seemed rather breathlessly 
to measure the chances of his listener's indulgence: 
''I'm just going over to a little Bible Class I have in 
Tenth Avenue." 

MiUner, for a moment or two, stood watching the slim 
figure wind its way through the mass of vehicles to the 
opposite comer; then he pursued his own course down 
Fifth Avenue, measuring his steps to the rhythmic 
refrain: "It's too easy — it's too easy — it's too easy!" 

His own destination being the small faded flat off 
University Place where three tender females awaited 
the result of his mission, he had time, on the way home, 
after abandoning himself to a general sense of triumph, 
to dwell specifically on the various aspects of his 
achievement. Viewed materially and practically, it 
was a thing to be proud of; yet it was chiefly on aesthetic 

[ 283 ] 



THE BLOND beast 

grounds — because he had done so exactly what he 
had set out to do — ^that he glowed with pride at the 
afternoon's work. For, after all, any young man with 
the proper "pull*' might have applied to Orlando 6. 
Spence for the post of secretary, and might even have 
penetrated as far as the great man's study; but that he, 
Hugh Millner, should not only have forced his way to 
this fastness, but have established, within a short half 
hour, his right to remain there permanently: well, this, if 
it proved anything, proved that the first rule of success 
was to know how to live up to one's principles. 

"One must have a plan — one must have a plan," 
the young man murmured, looking with pity at the 
vague faces which the crowd bore past him, and feeling 
almost impelled to detain them and expound his 
doctrine. But the planlessness of average human nature 
was of course the measure of his opportunity; and he 
smiled to think that every purposeless face he met was 
a guarantee of his own advancement, a rung in the 
ladder he meant to climb. 

Yes, the whole secret of success was to know what 
one wanted to do, and not to be afraid to do it. His own 
history was proving that already. He had not been afraid 
to give up his small but safe position in a real-estate 
office for the precarious adventure of a private secre- 
taryship; and his first glimpse of his new employer had 
convinced him that he had not mistaken his calling. 

[«84] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

When one has a **way" with one — as, in all modesty, 
Millner knew he had — not to utilise it is a stupid 
waste of force. And when he learned that Orlando G. 
Spence was in search of a private secretary who should 
be able to give him intelligent assistance in the execu- 
tion of his philanthropic schemes, the young man felt 
that his hour had come. It was no part of his plan to 
associate himself with one of the masters of finance: 
he had a notion that minnows who go to a whale to 
learn how to grow bigger are likely to be swallowed 
in the process. The opportunity of a clever young man 
with a cool head and no prejudices (this again was 
drawn from life) lay rather in making himself indis- 
pensable to one of the beneficent rich, and in using the 
timidities and conformities of his patron as the means 
of his own advancement. Young Millner felt no scruples 
about formulating these principles to himself. It was 
not for nothing that, in his college days, he had hunted 
the hypothetical "moral sense" to its lair, and dragged 
from their concealment the various self-advancing sen- 
timents dissembled under it. Hb strength lay in his 
precocious insight into the springs of action, and in his 
refusal to classify them according to the accepted 
moral and social sanctions. He had to the full the 
courage of his lack of convictions. 

To a young man so untrammelled by prejudice it was 
self-evident that helpless philanthropists like Orlando 

[ 285 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

G. Spence were just as much the natural diet of the 
strong as the Iamb is of the wolf. It was pleasanter to 
eat than to be eaten, in a world where, as yet, there 
seemed to be no third alternative; and any scruples one 
might feel as to the temporary discomfort of one's 
victim were speedily dispelled by that larger scientific 
view which took into account the social destructiveness 
of the benevolent. Millner was persuaded that every 
individual woe mitigated by the philanthropy of Or- 
lando 6. Spence added just so much to the sum-total 
of human inefficiency, and it was one of his favourite 
subjects of speculation to picture the innumerable 
social evils that may follow upon the rescue of one 
infant from Mount Taygetus. 

"We're all bom to prey on each other, and pity for 
suffering is one of the most elementary stages of 
egotism. Until one has passed beyond, and acquired 
a taste for the more complex forms of the instinct *' 

He stopped suddenly, checked in his advance by a 
sallow wisp of a dog which had plunged through the 
press of vehicles to hurl itself between his legs. Millner 
did not dislike animals, though he preferred that they 
should be healthy and handsome. The dog under his 
feet was neither. Its cringing contour showed an in- 
judicious mingling of races, and its meagre coat be- 
trayed the deplorable habit of sleeping in coal-holes 
and subsisting on an innutritions diet. In addition to 

[ 286 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

these disadvantages, its shrinking and inconsequent 
movements revealed a congenital weakness of character 
which, even under more favourable conditions, would 
hardly have qualified it to become a useful member 
of society; and Millner was not sorry to notice that it 
moved with a limp of the hind 1^ that probably doomed 
it to speedy extinction. 

The absurdity of such an animars attempting to 
cross Fifth Avenue at the most crowded hour of the 
afternoon struck him as only less great than the irony 
of its having been permitted to achieve the feat; and 
he stood a moment looking at it, and wondering what 
had moved it to the attempt. It was really a perfect 
type of the human derelict which Orlando G. Spence 
and his kind were devoting their millions to perpetuate, 
and he reflected how much better Nature knew her 
business in dealing with the superfluous quadruped. 

A lady advancing in the opposite direction evidently 
took a less dispassionate view of the case, for she 
paused to remark emotionally: ''Oh, you poor thing!" 
while she stooped to caress the object of her sjrmpathy. 
The dog, with characteristic lack of discrimination, 
viewed her gesture with suspicion, and met it with 
a snarl. The lady turned pale and shrank away, a 
chivalrous male repelled the animal with his umbrella, 
and two idle boys backed his actions by a vigorous 
"Hi!*' The object of these demonstrations, apparently 

[ «87 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

attributing them not to his own unsocial conduct, but 
merely to the chronic hostility of the universe, dashed 
wildly around the comer into a side street, and as it did 
so Millner noticed that the lame 1^ left a slight trail of 
blood. Irresistibly, he turned the comer to see what 
would happen next. It was clear that the animal itself 
had no plan; but after several inconsequent and con* 
tradictory movements it plunged down an area, where 
it backed up against the iron gate, forlornly and 
foolishly at bay. 

Millner, still following, looked down at it, and won- 
dered. Then he whistled, just to see if it would come; 
but this only caused it to start up tremblingly, with 
desperate turns of the head that measured the chances 
of escape. 

"Oh, hang it, you poor devil, stay there if you like!" 
the young man murmured, walking away. 

A few yards off he looked back, and saw that the 
dog had made a rush out of the area and was limping 
down the street. The idle boys were in the offing, 
and he disliked the thought of leaving them in control 
of the situation. Softly, with infinite precautions, he 
heggn to follow the dog. He did not know why he was 
doing it, but the impulse was overmastering. For a 
moment he seemed to be gaining upon his quarry, but 
with a cunning sense of his approach it suddenly turned 
and hobbled across the frozen grass-plot adjoining a 

[ 288 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

shuttered house. Against the wall at the back of the 
plot it cowered down in a dirty snow-drift, as if dis- 
heartened by the struggle. MiUner stood outside the 
railings and looked at it. He reflected that under the 
shelter of the winter dusk it might have the luck to 
remain there unmolested, and that in the morning it 
would probably be dead. This was so obviously the 
best solution that he began to move away again; but 
as he did so the idle boys confronted him. 

"Ketch yer dog for yer, boss?" they grinned. 

Millner consigned them to the devil, and stood 
watching till the first stage of the journey had carried 
them around the nearest comer; then, after pausing to 
look once more up and down the empty street, he 
laid his hand on the railing, and vaulted over it into 
the grass-plot. As he did so, he reflected that, since 
pity for suffering was one of the most primitive forms 
of egotism, he ought to have remembered that it was 
necessarily one of the most tenacious. 



n 

**Mt chief aim in life?'* Orlando G. Spence repeated. 
He threw himself back in his chair, straightened the 
tortoise-shell pince-nez on his short thick nose, and 
beamed down the luncheon table at the two young 
men who shared his repast. 

[ 289 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

EKb glance rested on his son Draper, seated opposite 
him behind a barrier of Geoigian silver and orchids; 
but his words were addressed to his secretary who, 
stylograph in hand, had turned from the seductions 
of a mushroom souffle to jot down, for the Sunday 
Investigator^ an outline of his employer's views and 
intentions respecting the newly endowed Orlando G. 
Spence College for Missionaries. It was Mr. Spence's 
practice to receive in person the journalists privileged 
to impart his opinions to the world; but during the last 
few months — and especiaUy since the vast project of the 
Missionaiy College had been in process of develop- 
ment — ^the pressure of business and beneficence had 
necessitated Millner*s frequent intervention, and com- 
pelled the secretaiy to snatch the sense of his pa- 
tron's elucubrations between the courses of their rapid 
meals. 

Young Millner .had a healthy appetite, and it was 
not one of his least sacrifices to be so often obliged to 
curb it in the interest of his advancement; but whenever 
he waved aside one of the triumphs of Mr. Spence's 
cktf he was conscious of rising a step in his employer's 
favour. Mr. Spence did not despise the pleasures of 
the table, though he appeared to regard them as the 
reward of success rather than as the alleviation of 
effort; and it increased his sense of his secretaiy's 
merit to note how keenly the young man enjoyed the 

[ 290 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

fare which he was so frequently obliged to deny him- 
self. Draper, having subsisted since infancy on a diet 
of truffles and terrapin, consumed such delicacies with 
the insensibility of a traveller swallowing a railway 
sandwich; but MiUner never made the mistake of con- 
cealing from Mr. Spence his sense of what he was losing 
when duty constrained him to exchange the fork for 
the pen. 

'*My chief aim in life?'' Mr. Spence repeated, re- 
moving his eye-glass and swinging it thoughtfully on 
his finger. ("I'm sorry you should miss this Bouffie^ 
Millner: it's worth while.) Why, I suppose I might say 
that my chief aim in life is to leave the world better 
than I found it. Yes: I don't know that I could put it 
better than that. To leave the world better than I 
found it. It wouldn't be a bad idea to use that as a 
head-line. * WanU to leave the vxyrU better than he found 
it.* It's exactly the point I should like to make in this 
talk for the Investigator about the G>llqpe." 

Mr. Spenoe paused, and his glance once more re- 
verted to his son, who, having pushed aside his plate, 
sat watching Millner with a dreamy intensity. 

*'And it's the point I want to make with you, too. 

Draper," his father continued, while he turned over 

with* a critical fork the plump and perfectly matched 

asparagus which a footman was presenting to his notice. 

*' I want to make you feel that nothing else counts in 

[891] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

comparison with that — no amount of literary success or 
intellectual celebrity/' 

'*Oh, I do feel that/' Draper murmuredy with one 
of his quick blushes, and a glance that wavered between 
his father and Millner. The secretaiy kept his eyes on 
his notes, and young Spence continued, after a pause: 
"Only the thing is — isn't it? — to try and find out just 
what does make the world better?" 

**To ^ to find out?" his father echoed compassion- 
ately. '^It's not necessary to tiy very hard. Goodness is 
what makes the world better." 

"Yes, yes, of course," his son interposed; "but the 
question is, what is good " 

Mr. Spence, with a darkening brow, brought his 
fist down emphatically on the damask. "I'll thank you 
not to blaspheme, my son!" 

Draper's head reared itself a trifle higher on his thin 
neck. "I was not going to blaspheme; only there may 
be di£Perent ways " 

"There's where you're mistaken. Draper. There's 
only one way: there's my way," said Mr. Spence in 
a tone of unshaken conviction. 

"I know, father; I see what you mean. But don't 
you see that even your way wouldn't be the right way 
for you if you ceased to believe that it was ?" 

EUs father looked at him with mingled bewilderment 
and reprobation. "Do you mean to say that the fact 

[ 292 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

of goodness depends on my conception of it* and not 
on God Almighty's?" 

"I do . . . yes ... in a certain sense . . ." young 
Draper falteringly maintained; and Mr. Spence turned 
with a discouraged gesture toward his secretary. 

"I don't understand your scientific jargon. Draper; 
and I don't want to. — ^What's the next point, Millner ? 
(No; no Sava/rin. Bring the fruit — and the coffee with 
it.) " 

MiUner, keenly aware that an aromatic Saoarin au 
rhum was describing an arc behind his head previous 
to being rushed back to the pantiy under young Dra- 
per's indifferent eye» stiffened himself against this last 
assault, and read out firmly: **What relation do you 
consider thai a man*8 business conduct shovld bear to 
his religious and domestic life f" 

Mr. Spence meditated for a moment. **Why» that's 
a stupid question. It goes over the same ground as 
the other one. A man ought to do good with his 
money — ^that's all. Go on." 

At this point the butler's murmur in his ear caused 

him to push back his chair, and to arrest Millner's 

interrogatory by a rapid gesture. "Yes; I'm coming. 

Hold the wire." Mr. Spence rose and plunged into the 

adjoining ''office," where a telephone and a Remington 

divided the attention of a young lady in spectacles who 

was preparing for Zenana work in the East. 

[ 293 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

As the door closed, the butler, having placed the coffee 
and liqueurs on the table, withdrew in the wake of 
his battalion, and the two young men were left alone 
beneath the Bembrandts and Hobbemas that looked 
down upon the dining-table. 

There was a moment's silence between them; then 
young Spence, leaning across the table, said in the low- 
ered tone of intimacy: ''Why do you suppose he dodged 
that last question?" 

Millner, who had taken an opulent purple fig from 
the' fruit-dish nearest him, paused in surprise in the 
act of hurrying it to his lips. 

"I mean," Draper hastened on, "the question as 
to the relation between business and private morality. 
It's such an interesting one, and he's just the person 
who ought to tackle it." 

Millner, despatching the fig, glanced down at his 
notes. "I don't think your father meant to dodge the 
question," he returned. 

Young Draper continued to look at him. 

" You think he imagined that his answer really covers 
the ground?" 

"As much as it needs to be covered." 

The son of the house glanced away with a sigh. 
"You know things about him that I don't," he said 
wistfully, but without a tinge of resentment. 

"Oh, as to that — (may I give myself some coffee ?) " 

[ 294 1 



THE BLOND BEAST 

Millner» in his walk around the table to fill his cup» 
paused a moment to lay an affectionate hand on Dra- 
per's shoulder. "Perhaps I know him better ^ in a sense: 
outsiders often get a more accurate focus/* 

Draper seemed to consider this. "And your idea is 
that he acts on principles he has never thought of 
testing or defining?'' 

Millner looked up quickly, and for an instant their 
glances crossed. "How do you mean?" 

"I mean: that he's an inconscient instrument of good- 
ness, as it were ? A — a sort of blindly beneficent force ? " 

The other smiled. "That's not a bad definition. I 
know one thing about him, at any rate: he's awfully 
upset at your having chucked your Bible Class." 

A shadow fell on young Spence's candid brow. "I 
know. But what can I do about it ? That's what I was 
thinking of just now when I tried to show him that 
goodness, in a certain sense, is piuely subjective: that 
one can't do good against one's principles." Again 
his glance appealed to Millner. " You understand me, 
don't you?" 

Millner stirred his coffee in a silence not unclouded 
by perplexity. "Theoretically, perhaps. It's a pretty 
question, certainly. But I also understand your father's 
feeling that it hasn't much to do with life: especially 
now that he's got to make a speech in connection with 
the founding of this Missionary College. He may think 

[ 295 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

that any hint of internecine strife will weaken his pres- 
tige. Mightn't 70U have waited a little longer?" 

"How could I» when I might have been expected 
to take a part in this performance? To talk, and say 
things I didn't mean ? That was exactly what made me 
decide not to wait/' 

The door opened and Mr. Spence re-entered the 
room. As he did so his son rose as if to leave it. 
' "Where are you off to, Draper?" the banker asked. 

"I'm in rather a hurry, sir " 

Mr. Spence looked at his watch. "You can't be in 
more of a hurry than I am; and I've got seven minutes 
and a half." He seated himself behind the coffee-tray, 
lit a cigar, laid his watch on the table, and signed to 
Draper to resume his place. "No, Millner, don't you 
go; I want you both." He turned to the secr^aiy. 
"You know that Draper's given up his Bible Class? 
I understand it's not from the pressure of engage- 
ments'* — Mr. Spence's narrow lips took an ironic 
curve under the straight-clipped stubble of his mous- 
tache — "it's on principle, he tells me. He's principled 
against doing good!" 

Draper lifted a protesting hand. "It's not exactly 
that, father " 

"I know: you'll get off some scientific quibble that 
I don't understand. I've never had time to go in 
for intellectual hair-splitting. I've found too many 

[ 296 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

people down in the mire who needed a hand to pull 
them out. A busy man has to take his choice between 
helping his feUow-men and theorising about them. I've 
preferred to help. (You might take that down for the 
InvesHgaior^ Milhier.) And I thank God I've never 
stopped to ask what made me want to do good. I've 
just yielded to the impulse — ^that's all/' Mr. Spence 
turned back to his son. "Better men than either of 
us have been satisfied with that creed, my boy." 

Draper was silent, and Mr. Spence once more ad- 
dressed himself to his secretary. ''Millner, you're a 
reader: I've caught you at it. And I know this boy talks 
to you. What have you got to say? Do you suppose 
a Bible Class ever hurt anybody?" 

Millner paused a moment, feeling all through his 
nervous system the fateful tremor of the balance. 
"That's what I was just trying to tell him, sir " 

"Ah; you were ? That's good. Then I'll only say one 
thing more. Your doing what you've done at this par- 
ticular moment hurts me more. Draper, than your 
teaching the gospel of Jesus could possibly have hurt 
those young men over in Tenth Avenue." Mr. Spence 
arose and restored his watch to his pocket. "I shall 
want you in twenty minutes, Millner." 

The door closed on him, and for a while the two 
young men sat silent behind their cigar fumes. Then 
Draper Spence broke out, with a catch in his throat: 

[ «97 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

'* That's what I can't bear, MiUner, what I simply can't 
bear: to hurt him, to hurt his faith in mel It's an awful 
responsibility, isn't it, to tamper with anybody's faith 
in anything?" 

m 

The twenty minutes prolonged themselves to forty, 
the forty to fifty, and the fifty to an hour; and still 
Millner waited for Mr. Spence's summons. 

During the two years of his secretaryship the young 
man had learned the significance of such postponements. 
Mr. Spence's days were organised like a railway time- 
table, and a delay of an hour implied a casualty as far- 
reaching as the breaking down of an express. Of the 
cause of the present derangement Hugh Millner was 
ignorant; and the experience of the last months al- 
lowed him to fluctuate between conflicting conjectures. 
All were based on the indisputable fact that Mr. Spence 
was "bothered" — had for some time past been "both- 
ered." And it was one of Millner's discoveries that an 
extremely parsimonious use of the emotions underlay 
Mr. Spence's expansive manner and fraternal phrase- 
ology, and that he did not throw away his feelings any 
more than (for all his philanthropy) he threw away his 
money. If he was bothered, then, it could be only be- 
cause a careful survey of his situation had forced on 
him some unpleasant fact with which he was not im- 

[ 298 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

mediately prepared to deal; and any unpreparedness 
on Mr. Spence's part was also a significant symp- 
tom. 

Obviously, MiUner's original conception of his em- 
ployer's character had suffered extensive modification; 
but no final outline had replaced the first conjectural 
image. The two years spent in Mr. Spence's service 
had produced too many contradictory impressions to 
be fitted into any clear pattern; and the chief lesson 
Millner had learned from them was that life was less 
of an exact science, and character a more incalculable 
element, than he had been taught in the schools. In the 
light of this revised impression, his own footing seemed 
less secure than he had imagined, and the rungs of the 
ladder he was climbing more slippeiy than they had 
looked from below. He was not without the reassuring 
sense of having made himself, in certain snudl ways, 
necessary to Mr. Spence; and this conviction was con- 
firmed by Draper's reiterated assurance of his father's 
appreciation. But Millner had begun to suspect that 
one might be necessary to Mr. Spence one day, and a 
superfluity, if not an obstacle, the next; and that it 
would take superhuman astuteness to foresee how 
and when the change would occur. Every fluctuation 
of the great man's mood was therefore anxiously noted 
by the young meteorologist in his service; and this 
observer's vigilance was now strained to the utmost 

[ 299 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

by the little cloudy no bigger than a man's hand» adum- 
brated by the banker's unpunctuaiity. 

When Mr. Spenoe finally appeared, his aspect did 
not tend to dissipate the cloud. He wore what Millner 
had learned to call his ^'back-door face": a blank 
barred countenance, in which only an occasional 
twitch of the lids behind his glasses suggested that some 
one was on the watch. In this mood Mr. Spence usually 
seemed unconscious of his secretaiy's presence, or 
aware of it only as an arm terminating in a pen. Millner, 
accustomed on such occasions to exist merely as a func- 
tion, sat waiting for the click of the spring that should 
set him in action; but the pressure not being applied, 
he finally hazarded: "Are we to go on with the Inr- 
vestigcUor, sir?" 

Mr. Spence, who had been pacing up and down be^ 
tween the desk and the fireplace, threw himself into 
his usual seat at Millner's elbow. 

"I don't understand this new notion of Draper's," 
he said abruptly. "Where's he got it from? No one 
ever learned irreligion in my household." 

He turned his eyes on Millner, who had the sense of 
being scrutinised through a ground-glass window which 
left him vbible while it concealed his observer. The 
young man let his pen describe two or three vague 
patterns on the sheet before him. 

"Draper has ideas " he risked at last. 

[ 300 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

Mr. Spence looked hard at him. *' That's all right/* 
he said. '^I want my son to have everything. But what's 
the point of mixing up ideas and principles ? I've seen 
fellows who did that, and they were generally trying 
to borrow five dollars to get away from the sheriff. 
What's all this talk about goodness? Goodness isn't 
an idea. It's a fact. It's as solid as a business proposi- 
tion. And it's Draper's duty» as the son of a wealthy 
man, and the prospective steward of a great fortune, 
to elevate the standards of other young men — of young 
men who haven't had his opportunities. The rich ought 
to preach contentment, and to set the example them- 
selves. We have our cares, but we ought to conceal 
them. We ought to be cheerful, and accept things as 
they are — not go about sowing dissent and restlessness. 
What has Draper got to give these boys in his Bible 
Class, that's so much better than what he wants to 
take from them ? That's the question I'd like to have 
answered." 

Mr. Spence, carried away by his own eloquence, had 
removed his pince-nez and was twirling it about his 
extended forefinger with the gesture habitual to him 
when he spoke in public. After a pause, he went on, 
with a drop to the level of private intercourse: "I tell 
you this because I know you have a good deal of influ- 
ence with Draper. He has a high opinion of your brains. 

But you're a practical fellow, and you must see what 

[801] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

I mean. Try to make Draper see it. Make him under- 
stand how it looks to have him drop his Bible Class just 
at this particular time. It was his own choice to take 
up religious teaching among young men. He b^an 
with our office-boys, and then the work spread and was 
blessed. I was almost alarmed, at one time, at the way 
it took hold of him: when the papers began to talk 
about him as a formative influence I was afraid he*d 
lose his head and go into the church. Luckily he tried 
University Settlement first; but just as I thought he 
was settling down to that, he took to worrying about 
the Higher Criticism, and saying he couldn't go on 
teaching fairy-tales as histoiy. I can't see that any good 
ever came of criticbing what our parents believed, and 
it's a queer time for Draper to criticise my belief just 
as I'm backing it to the extent of five millions." 

MiUner remained silent; and, as though his silence 
were an argument, Mr. Spence continued combatively: 
"Draper's always talking about some distinction be- 
tween religion and morality. I don't understand what 
he means. I got my morals out of the Bible, and I guess 
there's enough left in it for Draper. If religion won't 
make a man moral, I don't see why irreligion should. 
And he talks about using his mind — ^well, can't he use 
that in Wall Street ? A man can get a good deal farther 
in life watching the market than picking holes in Gene- 
sis; and he can do more good too. There's a time for 

[ S02 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

eveiything; and Draper seems to me to have mixed up 
week-days with Sunday." 

Mr. Spence replaced his eye-glasses» and stretching 
his hand to the silver box at his elbow, extracted from 
it one of the long cigars sheathed in gold-leaf which 
were reserved for his private consumption. The secre- 
tary hastened to tender him a match, and for a moment 
he puffed in silence. When he spoke again it was in a 
different note. 

'^I've got about all the bother I can handle just now, 
without this nonsense of Draper's. That was one of the 
Trustees of the Coll^;e with me. It seems the Flash- 

light has been trying to stir up a fuss ** Mr. Spence 

paused, and turned his pince-nez on his secretary. 
*'You haven't heard from them?" he asked. 

*'From the Flashlighi f No." Millner's surprise was 
genuine. 

He detected a gleam of relief behind Mr. Spence's 

glasses. *'It may be just malicious talk. That's the worst 

of good works; they bring out all the meanness in 

human nature. And then there are always women mixed 

up in them, and there never was a woman yet who 

understood the difference between philanthropy and 

business." He drew again at his cigar, and then, with 

an unwonted movement, leaned forward and absently 

pushed the box toward Millner. ''Help yourself," he 

said. 

[ 303 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

Millner, as mechanically, took one of the viiginally 
cinctured cigars, and began to undo its wrappings. It 
was the first time he had ever been privilqped to detach 
that golden girdle, and nothing could have given him 
a better measure of the importance of the situation, 
and of the degree to which he was apparently involved 
in it. *'You remember that San Pablo rubber business? 
That's what theyVe been raking up," said Mr. Spence. 

Millner paused in the act of striking a match. Then, 
with an appreciable effort of the will, he completed the 
gesture, applied the flame to his cigar, and took a long 
inhalation. The cigar was certainly delicious. 

Mr. Spence, drawing a little closer, leaned forward 
.and touched him on the arm. The touch caused Millner 
to turn his head, and for an instant the glance of the 
two men crossed at short range. Millner was conscious, 
first, of a nearer view than he had ever had of his em- 
ployer's face, and of its vaguely suggesting a seamed 
sandstone head, the kind of thing that lies in a comer 
in the court of a museum, and in which only the round 
enamelled eyes have resisted the wear of time. His next 
feeling was that he had now reached the moment to 
which the offer of the cigar had been a prelude. He 
had always known that, sooner or later, such a moment 
would come; all his life, in a sense, had been a prepara- 
tion for it. But in entering Mr. Spence's service he had 
not foreseen that it would present itself in this form. 

[ 304 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

He had seen himself consciously guiding that gentleman 
up to the moment, rather than being thrust into it by 
a stronger hand. And his first act of reflection was the 
resolve that, in the end» his hand should prove the 
stronger of the two. This was foUowed, almost immedi* 
ately, by the idea that to be stronger than Mr. Spence's 
it would have to be very strong indeed. It was odd that 
he should feel this, since — as far as verbal conmiunica- 
tion went — it was Mr. Spenoe who was asking for his 
support. In a theoretical statement of the case the 
banker would have figured as being at Millner's mercy; 
but one of the queerest things about experience was the 
way it made light of theory. MiUner felt now as though 
he were being crushed by some inexorable engine of 
which he had been playing with the lever. • . 

He had always been intensely interested in observing 
his own reactions, and had regarded this faculty of self- 
detachment as of immense advantage in such a career 
as he had planned. He felt this still, even in the act of 
noting his own bewilderment — ^felt it the more in con- 
trast to the odd unconsciousness of Mr. Spenoe's atti- 
tude, of the incredible candour of his self-abasement 
and self-abandonment. It was dear that Mr. Spence 
was not troubled by the repercussion of his actions in 
the consciousness of others; and this looked like a 
weakness — unless it were, instead, a great strength. . . 

Through the hum of these swarming thoughts Mr, 

[ 305 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

Spence's voice was going on. "That's literally the only 
rag of proof they've got; and they got it by one of those 
nasty accidents that nobody can guard against. I don't 
care how conscientiously a man attends to business, he 
can't always protect himself against meddlesome peo- 
ple. I don't pretend to know how the letter came into 
their hands; but they've got it; and they mean to use it 
— and they mean to say that you wrote it for me, and 
that you knew what it was about when you wrote it. . . 
They'll probably be after you to-morrow " 

Mr. Spence, restoring his cigar to his lips, puffed 
at it slowly. In the pause that followed there was an 
instan^ during which the universe seemed to Hugh 
Millner like a sounding-board bent above his single 
consciousness. If he spoke, what thunders would be 
sent back to him from that intently listening vastness ? 

"You see?" said Mr. Spence. 

The universal ear bent closer, as if to catch the least 
articulation of Millner's narrowed lips; but when he 
opened them it was merely to reinsert his cigar, and 
for a short space nothing passed between the two men 
but a mute exchange of smoke-rings. 

"What do you mean to do? There's the point," 
Mr. Spence at length sent through the rings. 

Oh, yes, the point was there, as distinctly before 
Millner as the tip of his expensive cigar: he had seen it 
coming quite as soon as Mr. Spence. But the sense of 

[ S06 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

the formidable echo which his least answer would rouse 
kept him doggedly, and almost helplessly, silent. To 
let Mr. Spence talk on as long as possible was no doubt 
the best way of gaining time; but Millner knew that 
his silence was really due to his dread of the echo. 
Suddenly, however, in a reaction of impatience at his 
own indecision, he b^an to speak. 

The sound of his voice cleared his mind and strength- 
ened his resolve. It was odd how the word seemed to 
shape the act, though one knew how ancillary it really 
was. As he talked, it was as if the globe had swung 
around, and he himself were upright on its axis, with 
Mr. Spence underneath, on his head. Through the 
ensuing interchange of concise and rapid speech there 
sounded in Millner's ears the refrain to which he had 
walked . down Fifth Avenue after his first talk with 
Mr. Spence: "It's too easy — it*s too easy — ^it's too 
easy." Yes, it was even easier than he had expected. 
His sensation was that of the skilful carver who feeb 
his blade sink into a tender joint. 

As he went on talking, this surprised sense of mastery 

was like wine in his veins. Mr. Spence was at his mercy, 

after aU — that was what it came to; but this new view 

of the case did not lessen Millner's sense of Mr. Spence's 

strength, it merely revealed to him his own superiority. 

Mr. Spence was even stronger than he had suspected. 

There could be no better proof of that than his faith 

1807] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

in Millner's power to grasp the situation, and his tacit 
recognition of the young man's right to make the most 
of it. Millner felt that Mr. Spence would have despised 
him even more for not using his advantage than for not 
seeing it; and this homage to his capacity nerved him 
to greater alertness, and made the concluding moments 
of their talk as physically exhilarating as some hotly 
contested game. 

When the conclusion was reached, and Millner stood 
at the goal, the golden trophy in his grasp, his first 
conscious thought was one of regret that the struggle 
was over. He would have liked to prolong their talk 
for the purely sesthetic pleasure of making Mr. Spence 
lose time, and, better still, of making him foiget that 
he was losing it. The sense of advantage that the situa- 
tion conferred was so great that when Mr. Spence rose 
it was as if Millner were dismissing him, and when he 
reached his hand toward the cigar-box it seemed to be 
one of Millner's cigars that he was taking. 

IV 

There had been only one condition attached to the 
transaction: Millner was to speak to Draper about the 
Bible Class. 

The condition was easy to fulfil. Millner was con- 
fident of his power to deflect his young friend's puqx>se; 

[308.] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

and he knew the opportunity would be given him before 
the day was over. His professional duties despatched, 
he had only to go up to his room to wait. Draper nearly 
always looked in on him for a moment before dinner: 
it was the hour most propitious to their elliptic inter- 
change of words and silences. 

Meanwhile, the waiting was an occupation in itself. 
Mjllner looked about his room with new ^es. Since 
the first thrill of initiation into its complicated comforts 
— ^the shower-bath, the telephone, the many-jointed 
reading-lamp and the vast mirrored presses through 
which he was always hunting his scant outfit — Millner's 
room had interested him no more than a railway- 
carriage in which he might have been travelling. But 
now it had acquired a sort of historic significance as the 
witness of the astounding change in his fate. It was 
Corsica, it was Brienne — it was the kind of spot that 
posterity might yet mark with a tablet. Then he reflected 
that he should soon be leaving it, and the lustre of its 
monumental mahogany was veiled in pathos. Why in- 
deed should he linger on in bondage? He perceived 
with a certain surprise that the only thing he should 
regret would be leaving Draper. • • 

It was odd, it was inconsequent, it was almost ex- 
asperating, that such a regret should obscure his tri- 
umph. Why in the world should he suddenly take to 
regretting Draper? If there were any logic in human 

[ 309 ] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

likings, it should be to Mr. Spenoe that he indined. 
Draper, dear lad, had the illusion of an "intellectual 
sympathy" between them; but that, Millner knew, was 
an affair of reading and not of character. Draper's 
temerities would always be of that kind; whereas his 
own — ^well, his own, put to the proof, had now definitely 
classed him with Mr. Spence rather than with Mr. 
Spence's son. It was a consequence of this new condi- 
tion — of his having thus distinctly and irrevocably 
classed himself — ^that, when Draper at length brought 
upon the scene his shy shamble and his wistful smile, 
Millner, for the first time, had to steel himself against 
them instead of yielding to their charm. 

In the new order upon which he had entered, one 
principle of the old survived: the point of honour be- 
tween allies. And Millner had promised Mr. Spence to 
speak to Draper about his Bible Class. . • 

Draper, thrown back in his chair, and swinging a 
loose leg across a meagre knee, listened with his habitual 
gravity. His downcast eyes seemed to pursue the vision 
which Millner's words evoked; and the words, to their 
speaker, took on a new sound as that candid con- 
sciousness refracted them. 

"You know, dear boy, I perfectly see your father's 
point. It's naturally distressing to him, at this particu- 
lar time, to have any hint of civil war leak out " 

Draper sat upright, laying his lank 1^ knee to knee. 

[810] 



THE BLOND BEAST 



"That's it, then ? I thought that was it!'' 
Millner raised a surprised glance. **Whai*s it?' 
"That it should be at this particular time ' 



"Why, naturally, as I say! Just as he's making, as 
it were, his public profession of faith. You know, to 
men like your father convictions are irreducible ele- 
ments — they can't be split up and differently com- 
bined. And your ex^etical scruples seem to him to 
strike at the veiy root of his convictions." 

Draper pulled himself to his feet and shuffled across 
the room. Then he turned about, and stood before his 
friend. 

"Is it that — or is it this ?" he said; and with the word 
he drew a letter from his pocket and proffered it silently 
to Millner. 

The latter, as he unfolded it, was first aware of an 
intense surprise at the young man's abruptness of 
tone and gesture. Usually Draper fluttered long about 
his point before making it; and his sudden movement 
seemed as mechanical as the impulsion conveyed by 
some strong spring. The spring, of course, was in the 
letter; and to it Millner turned his wondering glance, 
feeling the while that, by some curious cleavage of per* 
ception, he was continuing to watch Draper while he 
read. 

''Oh, the beasts!" he cried. 

He and Draper were face to face across the sheet 

[811] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

which had dropped between them. The youth's features 
were tightened by a smile that was like the ligature of 
a wound. He looked white and withered. 

"Ah — ^you knew, then?" 

Millner sat still, and after a moment Draper turned 
from him, walked to the hearth, and leaned against 
the chimney, propping his chin on his hands. Millner, 
his head thrown back, stared up at the ceiling, which 
had suddenly become to him the image of the universal 
sounding-board hanging over his consciousness. 

"You knew, then?" Draper repeated. 

Millner remained silent. He had perceived, with the 
surprise of a mathematician working out a new prob- 
lem, that the lie which Mr. Spence had just bought of 
him was exactly the one he could give of his own free 
will to Mr. Spence*s son. This discovery gave the world 
a strange new topsy-turvyness, and set Millner's theo- 
ries spinning about his brain like the cabin furniture 
of a tossing ship. 

"You knewy** said Draper, in a tone of quiet affirma- 
tion. 

Millner righted himself, and grasped the arms of his 
chair as if that too were reeling. "About this black- 
guardly charge?" 

Draper was studying him intently. "What does it 
matter if it's blackguardly?" 

"Matter ?" Millner stammered. 

[Sl«] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

**It's that, of course, in any case. But the point is 
whether it's true or not." Draper bent down, and pick- 
ing up the crumpled letter, smoothed it out between his 
fingers. *'The point is, whether my father, when he 
was publicly denouncing the peonage abuses on the 
San Pablo plantations over a year ago, had actually 
sold out his stock, as he announced at the time; or 
whether, as they say here — ^how do they put it ? — ^he had 
simply transferred it to a dummy till the scandal should 
blow over, and has meanwhile gone on drawing his 
forty per cent, interest on five thousand shares ? There's 
the point.'* 

Millner had never before heard his young friend put 
a case with such unadorned precision. His language 
was like that of Mr. Spence making a statement to a 
committee meeting; and the resemblance to his father 
flashed out with ironic incongruity. 

"You see why I've brought this letter to you — I 
couldn't go to him with it!" Draper's voice faltered, 
and the resemblance vanished as suddenly as it had 
appeared. 

**No; you couldn't go to him with it," said MiUner, 
to gain time. 

"And since they say here that you know: that they've 

got your letter proving it " The muscles of Draper's 

face quivered as if a blinding light had been swept over 

it. "For God's sake, Millner— it's all right?" 

[813] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

"It's all right/' said Millner, rising to his feet. 

Draper caught him by the wrist. "You're sure — 
you're absolutely sure?" 

"Sure. They know they've got nothing to go on." 

Draper feU back a step and looked almost sternly 
at his friend. "That's not what I mean. I don't care 
a straw what they think they've got to go on. I want to 
know if my father's all right. If he is, they can say what 
they please." 

Millner, again, felt himself under the concentrated 
scrutiny of the ceiling. "Of course, of course. I under- 
stand." 

"You understand? Then why don't you answer?" 

Millner looked compassionately at the boy's struggling 
face. Decidedly, the battle was to the strong, and he was 
not sorry to be on the side of the legions. But Draper's 
pain was as awkward as a material obstacle, as some- 
thing that one stumbled over in a race. 

"You know what I'm driving at, Millner." Again 
Mr. Spence's committee-meeting tone sounded oddly 
through his son's strained voice. "If my father's so 
awfully upset about my giving up my Bible Class, and 
letting it be known that I do so on conscientious grounds, 
is it because he's afraid it may be considered a criticism 
on something he has done which — which won't bear the 
test of the doctrines he believes in ?" 

Draper, with the last question, squared himself in 

[ 814] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

front of Millner, as if suspecting that the latter meant 
to evade it by flight. But Millner had never felt more 
disposed to stand his ground than at that moment. 

"No — by Jove, no! It's not thai,** His relief ahnost 
escaped him in a ciy, as he lifted his head to give back 
Draper's look. 

"On your honour?" the other passionately pressed 
him. 

"Oh, on anybody's you like — on yours!" Millner 
could hardly restrain a laugh of relief. It was vertiginous 
to find himself spared, after all, the need of an altruistic 
lie: he perceived that they were the kind he least liked. 

Draper took a deep breath. "You don't — Millner, 
a lot depends on this — ^you don't really think my father 
has any ulterior motive?" 

"I think he has none but his horror of seeing you 
go straight to perdition!" 

They looked at each other again, and Draper's ten- 
sion was suddenly relieved by a free boyish laugh. "It's 
his convictions — it's just his funny old convictions?" 

"It's that, and nothing else on earth!" 

Draper turned back to the arm-chair he had left, 
and let his narrow figure sink down into it as into a 
bath. Then he looked over at Millner with a smile. 
"I can see that I've been worrying him horribly. So 
he really thinks I'm on the road to perdition ? Of course 
you can fancy what a sick minute I had when I thcvght 

[815] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

it might be this other reason — ^the damnable insinua- 
tion in this letter." Draper crumpled the paper in his 
hand, and leaned forward to toss it into the coals of 
the grate. *'I ought to have known better, of course. I 
ought to have remembered that, as you say, my father 
can't conceive how conduct may be independent of 
creed. That's where I was stupid — and rather base. 
But that letter made me dizzy — I couldn't think. Even 
now I can't veiy clearly. I'm not sure what my con- 
victions require of me: they seem to me so much less 
to be considered than his! When I've done half the good 
to people that he has, it will be time enough to begin 
attacking their beliefs. Meanwhile — meanwhile I can't 
touch his. . ." Draper leaned forward, stretching his 
lank arms along his knees. His face was as clear as a 
spring sky. "I vx}n*t touch them, Millner — Go and tell 
him so. • . ' 



In the study a half hour later Mr. Spence, watch in 
hand, was doling out his minutes again. The peril con- 
jured, he had recovered his dominion over time. He 
turned his commanding eye-glasses on Millner. 

"It's all settled, then? Tell Draper I'm sorry not to 
see him again to-night — but I'm to speak at the dinner 
of the Legal Relief Association, and I'm due there in 
five minutes. You and he dine alone here, I suppose ? 

[816] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

TeQ him I appreciate what he's done. Some day he'll 
see that to leave the world better than we find it is the 
best we can hope to do. (You've finished the notes for 
the InvestigaiOT f Be sure you don't foiget that phrase.) 
WeU, good evening: that's all, I think." 

Smooth and compact in his glossy evening clothes, 
Mr. Spence advanced toward the study door; but as 
he reached it, his secretary stood there before him. 

"It's not quite all, Mr. Spence." 

Mr. Spence turned on him a look in which impatience 
was faintly tinged with apprehension. ''What else is 
there ? It's two and a half minutes to eight." 

Millner stood his ground. "It won't take longer than 
that. I want to tell you that, if you can conveniently 
replace me, I'd like — ^there are reasons why I shaU have 
to leave you." 

Millner was conscious of reddening as he spoke. His 
redness deepened under Mr. Spence's dispassionate 
scrutiny. He saw at once that the banker was not sur- 
prised at his announcement. 

"Well, I suppose that's natural enough. Youll want 
to make a start for yourself now. Only, of course, for 
the sake of appearances " 

"Oh, certainly," MiUner hastily agreed. 

"Well, then: b that all?" Mr. Spence repeated. 

"Nearly." Millner paused, as if in search of an ap- 
propriate formula. But after a moment he gave up the 

[817] 



THE BLOND BEAST 

search, and pulled from his pocket an envelope which 
he held out to his employer. "I merely want to give 
this back to you." 

The hand which Mr. Spence had extended dropped 
to his side, and his sand-coloured face grew chalky. 
'"Give it back?" His voice was as thick as Millner's. 
"What's happened? Is the baigain o£P?" 

"Oh, no. I've given you my word." 

"Your word?" Mr. Spence lowered at him. "Fd 
like to know what that's worth!" 

Millner continued to hold out the envelope. "You do 
know, now. It's worth that. It's worth my place." 

Mr. Spence, standing motionless before him, hesi- 
tated for an appreciable space of time. His lips parted 
once or twice under their square-clipped stubble, and 
at last emitted: " You'd better say at once how much 
more you want. " 

Millner broke into a laugh. "Oh, I've got all I want 
— all and more!" 

What — ^from the others? Are you crazy?" 
No, you are," said Millner with a sudden recovery 
of composure. "But you're safe — ^you're as safe as 
you'll ever be. Only I don't care to take this for making 
you so." 

Mr. Spence slowly moistened his lips with his tongue, 
and removing his pince-nez^ took a long hard look at 
Millner. 

[318] 






THE BLOND BEAST 

"I don't understand. What other guaranty have I 
got?" 

"That I mean what I say?" Millner glanced past 
the banker's figure at his rich densely coloured back- 
ground of Spanish leather and mahogany. He remem- 
bered that it was from this very threshold that he had 
first seen Mr. Spence's son. 

*'What guaranty? You've got Draper!" he said. 



1319 1 



AFTERWARD 



AFTERWARD 



"y^^H, there is one, of course, but youTl never 

yj know it." 

The assertion, laughingly flung out six months 
earlier in a bright June garden, came back to Mary 
Boyne with a new perception of its significance as she 
stood, in the December dusk, waiting for the lamps to 
be brought into the library. 

The words had been spoken by their friend Alida 
Stair, as they sat at tea on her lawn at Pangboume, in 
reference to the very house of which the library in 
question was the central, the pivotal ** feature.'' Mary 
Boyne and her husband, in quest of a country place in 
one of the southern or southwestern counties, had, on 
their arrival in England, carried their problem straight 
to Alida Stair, who had successfully solved it in her 
own case; but it was not until they had rejected, al- 
most capriciously, several practical and judicious sug- 
gestions that she threw out: ''Well, there's Lyng, in 
Dorsetshire. It belongs to Hugo's cousins, and you can 

get it for a song." 

[ 82S ] 



AFTERWARD 

The reason she gave for its being obtainable on these 
terms — its remoteness from a station, its lack of electric 
light, hot-water pipes, and other vulgar necessities-^ 
were exactly those pleading in its favour with two 
romantic Americans perversely in search of the economic 
drawbacks which were associated, in their tradition, 
with unusual architectural felicities. 

"I should never believe I was living in an old house 
unless I was thoroughly uncomfortable," Ned Boyne, 
the more extravagant of the two, had jocosely insisted; 
"the least hint of 'convenience' would make me think 
it had been bought out of an exhibition, with the pieces 
numbered, and set up again/' And they had proceeded 
to enumerate, with humorous precbion, their various 
doubts and demands, refusing to believe that the 
house their cousin recommended was really Tudor till 
they learned it had no heating system, or that the village 
church was literally in the grounds till she assured them 
of the deplorable uncertainty of the water-supply. 

''It's too uncomfortable to be true!" Edward Boyne 
had continued to exult as the avowal of each disad- 
vantage was successively wrung from her; but he had cut 
short his rhapsody to ask, with a relapse to distrust: 
"And the ghost? You've been concealing from us the 
fact that thero is no ghost!" 

Mary, at the moment, had laughed with him, yet 
almost with her laugh, being possessed of several sets 

[S«4] 



AFTERWARD 

of independent perceptions, had been struck by a note 
of flatness in Alidads answering hilarity. 

''Oh» Dorsetshire's fuU of ghosts, you know.'* 

'"Yes, yes; but that won't do. I don't want to have to 
drive ten miles to see somebody else's ghost. I want one 
of my own on the premises. Is there a ghost at Lyng ?" 

His rejoinder hadjmade Alida laugh again, and it was 
then that she had flung back tantalisingly: **Oh, there 
U one, of course, but you'll never know it." 

*' Never know it?" Boyne pulled her up. *'But what 
in the world constitutes a ghost except the fact of its 
being known for one?" 

''I can't say. But that's the story." 

*'That there's a ghost, but that nobody knows it's 
a ghost?" 

"Well — not till afterward, at any rate." 

"TiU afterward?" 

"Not till long long afterward." 

"But if it's once been identified as an unearthly 
visitant, why hasn't its ngnalemefU been handed down 
in the family? How has it managed to preserve its 
incognito ? " 

Alida could only shake her head. "Don't ask me. 
But it has." 

"And then suddenly — " Mary spoke up as if from 
cavernous depths of divination — "suddenly, long after- 
ward, one says to one's self * Thai was it f 

[ 325 ] 



i>»f 



r 



AFTERWARD 

She was startled at the sepulchral sound with which 
her question fell on the banter of the other two, 
and she saw the shadow of the same surprise flit 
across Alida's pupils. **I suppose so. One just has to 
wait." 

"Oh» hang waiting!'* Ned broke in. "Life's too short 
) for a ghost who can only be enjoyed in retrospect. 
. Can't we do better than that, Mary ? " 

But it turned out that in the event they were not des- 
tined to, for within three months of their conversation 
with Mrs. Stair they were settled at Lyng, and the life 
they had yearned for, to the point of planning it in 
advance in all its daily details, had actually b^;un for 
them. 

It was to sit, in the thick December dusk, by just 
such a wide-hooded fireplace, under just such black 
oak rafters, with the sense that beyond the mullioned 
panes the downs were darkened to a deeper solitude: 
it was for the ultimate indulgence of such sensations 
that Mary Boyne, abruptly exiled from New York by 
her husband's business, had endured for neariy fourteen 
years the soul-deadening ugliness of a Middle Western 
town, and that Boyne had ground on doggedly at his 
engineering till, with a suddenness that still made her 
blink, the prodigious windfall of the Blue Star Mine 
had put them at a stroke in possession of life and the 
leisure to taste it. They had never for a moment meant 

[ 326 ] 



AFTERWARD 

aeir new state to be one of idleness; but they meant to 
give themselyes only to harmonious activities. She had 
her vision of painting and gardening (against a back- 
ground of grey walls), he dreamed of the production 
of his long-planned book on the ** Economic Basis of 
Culture"; and with such absorbing work ahead no 
existence could be too sequestered: they could not get 
far enough from the world, or plunge deep enough 
into the past. 

Dorsetshire had attracted them from the first by an 
air of remoteness out of all proportion to its geo- 
graphical position. But to the Boynes it was one of 
the ever-recurring wonders of the whole incredibly 
compressed island — a nest of counties, as they put it — 
that for the production of its effects so little of a given 
quality went so far: that so few miles made a distance, 
and so short a distance a difference. 

''It's that,*' Ned had once enthusiastically explained, 
"that gives such depth to their effects, such relief to 
their contrasts. They've been able to lay the butter so 
thick on every delicious mouthful." 

The butter had certainly been laid on thick at Ljmg: 
the old house hidden under a shoulder of the downs 
had almost all the finer marks of commerce with a 
protracted past. The mere fact that it was neither laige 
nor exceptional made it, to the Boynes, abound the 
more completely in its special charm — the cha^^n of 

[827] 



AFTERWARD 

having been for centuries a deep dim reservoir of life. 
The life had probably not been of the most vivid order: 
for long periods, no doubt, it had fallen as noiselessly 
into the past as the quiet drizzle of autumn fell, hour 
after hour, into the fish-pond between the yews; but 
these back-waters of existence sometimes breed, in 
their sluggish depths, strange acuities of emotion, and 
Mary Bojme had felt from the first the mysterious stir 
of intenser memories. 

The feeling had never been stronger than on this 
particular afternoon when, waiting in the libraiy for 
the lamps to come, she rose from her seat and stood 
among the shadows of the hearth. Her husband had 
gone off, after luncheon, for one of his long tramps on 
the downs. She had noticed of late that he preferred to 
go alone; and, in the tried security of their personal 
relations, had been driven to conclude that his book 
was bothering him, and that he needed the afternoons 
to turn over in solitude the problems left from the 
morning's work. Certainly the book was not going as 
smoothly as she had thought it would, and there were 
lines of perplexity between his eyes such as had never 
been there in his engineering days. He had often, then, 
looked fagged to the verge of illness, but the native 
demon of ** worry'* had never branded his brow. Yet 
the few pages he had so far read to her — the intro- 
duction, and a summary of the opening chapter — 

[ 828 ] 



AFTERWARD 

showed a firm hold on his subject, and an increasing 
confidence in his powers. 

The fact threw her into deeper perplexity, since, now 
that he had done with *' business** and its disturbing 
contingencies, the one other possible source of anxiety 
was eliminated. Unless it were his health, then? But 
physically he had gained since they had come to Dorset- 
shire, grown robuster, ruddier and fresher-eyed. It was 
only within the last week that she had felt in him the 
undefinable change which made her restless in his 
absence, and as tongue-Ued in his presence as though 
it were she who had a secret to keep from him! 

The thought that there vxu a secret somewhere be- 
tween them struck her with a sudden rap of wonder, 
and she looked about her down the long room. 

''Can it be the house?'* she mused. 

The room itself might have been full of secrets. 
They seemed to be piling themselves up, as evening 
fell, like the layers and layers of velvet shadow drop- 
ping from the low ceiling, the rows of books, the 
smoke-blurred sculpture of the hearth. 

''Why, of course — ^the house is haunted!'* she re- 
flected. 

The ghost — ^Alida's imperceptible ghost — after fig« 
uring largely in the banter of their first month or two 
at Lyng, had been gradually left aside as too ineffectual 
for imaginative use. Mary had, indeed, as became the 

[ 829 ] 



AFTERWARD 

tenant of a haunted house, made the custonuuy in- 
quiries among her rural neighbours, but, beyond a vague 
''They dti say so, Ma'am," the villagers had nothing 
to impart. The elusive spectre had apparently never 
had sufficient identity for a l^end to crystallise about 
it, and after a time the Boynes had set the matter down 
to their profit-and-loss account, agreeing that Lyng 
was one of the few houses good enough in itself to dis- 
pense with supernatural enhancements. 

''And I suppose, poor ineffectual demon, that's 
why it beats its beautiful wings in vain in the void/' 
Maiy had laughingly concluded. 

Or, rather," Ned answered in the same strain, 
why, amid so much that's ghostly, it can never affirm 
its separate existence as the ghost." And thereupon 
their invisible housemate had finally dropped out of 
their references, which were numerous enough to make 
them soon unaware of the loss. 

Now, as she stood on the hearth, the subject of 
their earlier curiosity revived in her with a new sense 
of its meaning — a sense gradually acquired through 
daily contact with the scene of the lurking mystery. 
It was the house itself, of course, that possessed the 
ghost-seeing faculty, that communed visually but 
secretly with its own past; if one could only get into 
close enough communion with the house, one might 

surprise its secret, and acquire the ghes^-sight on one's 

[ 830 ] 






AFTERWARD 

own account. Perhaps, in his long hours in this very 
room, where she never trespassed till the afternoon, 
her husband had acquired it already, and was silently 
carrying about the weight of whatever it had revealed 
to him. Mary was too well versed in the code of the 
spectral world not to know that one could not talk 
about the ghosts one saw: to do so was almost as great 
a breach of taste as to name a lady in a club. But this 
explanation did not really satisfy her. '* What, after all, 
except for the fun of the shudder," she reflected, *' would 
he really care for any of their old ghosts V* And thence 
she was thrown back once more on the fundamental 
dilemma: the fact that one's greater or less susceptibility 
to spectral influences had no particular bearing on the 
case, since, when one did see a ghost at Lyng, one did 
not know it. 

''Not till long afterward," Alida Stair had said. 
Well, supposing Ned had seen one when they first 
came, and had known only within the last week what 
had happened to him ? More and more under the spell 
of the hour, she threw back her thoughts to the early 
days of their tenancy, but at first only to recall a lively 
confusion of unpacking, settling, arranging of books, 
and calling to each other from remote comers of the 
house as, treasure after treasure, it revealed itself to 
them. It was in this particular connection that she 
presently recalled a certain soft afternoon of the pre- 

[331 ] 



AFTERWARD 

vious October, when, passing from the first rapturous 
flurry of exploration to a detailed inspection of the old 
house, she had pressed (like a novel heroine) a panel 
that opened on a flight of corkscrew stairs leading to 
a flat ledge of the roof — the roof which, from below, 
seemed to slope away on all sides too abruptly for any 
but practised feet to scale. 

The view from this hidden coign was enchanting, 
and she had flown down to snatch Ned from his papeis 
and give him the freedom of her discovery. She remem- 
bered still how, standing at her side, he had passed his 
arm about her while their gaze flew to the long tossed 
horizon-line of the downs, and then dropped contentedly 
back to trace the arabesque of yew hedges about the 
fish-pond, and the shadow of the cedar on the lawn. 

''And now the other way," he had said, turning her 
about within his arm; and closely pressed to him, she 
had absorbed, like some long satisfying draught, the 
picture of the grey-walled court, the squat lions on the 
gates, and the lime-avenue reaching up to the highroad 
under the downs. 

It was just then, while they gazed and held each 
other, that she had felt his arm relax, and heard a 
sharp "Hullo!" that made her turn to glance at him. 

Distinctly, yes, she now recalled that she had seen, 

as she glanced, a shadow of anxiety, of perplexity, 

rather, fall across his face; and, folbwing his eyes, had 

[ 332 ] 



AFTERWARD 

beheld the figure of a man — a man in loose greyish 
clothes, as it appeared to her — who was sauntering 
down the lime-avenue to the court with the doubtful 
gait of a stranger who seeks his way. Her short-sighted 
eyes had given her but a blurred impression of slight- 
ness and grejrishness, with something foreign, or at 
least unlocal, in the cut of the figure or its dress; but 
her husband had apparently seen more — seen enough 
to make him push past her with a hasly *'Wait!'* and 
dash down the stairs without pausing to give her a hand. 

A slight tendency to dizziness obliged her, after a 
provisional clutch at the chimney against which they 
had been leaning, to follow him first more cautiously; 
and when she had reached the landing she paused 
again, for a less definite reason, leaning over the 
banister to strain her eyes through the silence of the 
brown sun-flecked depths. She lingered there till, some- 
where in those depths, she heard the closing of a door; 
then, mechanically impelled, she went down the shallow 
flights of steps till she reached the lower hall. 

The front door stood open on the sunlight of the 
court, and hall and court were empty. The library 
door was open, too, and after listening in vain for any 
sound of voices within, she crossed the threshold, and 
found her husband alone, vaguely fiingering the papers 
on his desk. 

He kx>ked up, as if surprised at her entrance, but the 

[ S8S ] 



AFTERWARD 

shadow of anxiety had passed from his face, leaving it 
even, as she fancied, a little brighter and dearer than 
usual. 

''What was it? Who was it?" she asked. 

''Who?" he repeated, with the surprise still all on 
his side. 

"The man we saw coming toward the house." 

He seemed to reflect. "The man ? Why, I thought I 
saw Peters; I dashed after him to say a word about the 
stable drains, but he had disappeared before I could 
get down." 

"Disappeared? But he seemed to be walking so 
slowly when we saw him." 

Boyne shrugged his shoulders. "So I thought; but 
he must have got up steam in the interval. What do 
you say to our trying a scramble up Meldon Steep be- 
fore sunset?" 

That was all. At the time the occurrence had been 
less than nothing, had, indeed, been inmiediately ob- 
literated by the magic of their first vision from Meldon 
Steep, a height which they had dreamed of climbing 
ever since they had first seen its bare spine rising 
above the roof of Lyng. Doubtless it was the mere 
fact of the other incident's having occurred on the very 
day of their ascent to Meldon that had kept it stored 
away in the fold of memory from which it now 
emerged; for in itself it had no mark of the portentous. 

[SS4] 



AFTERWARD 

At the moment there could have been nothing more 
natural than that Ned should dash himself from the 
roof in the pursuit of dilatory tradesmen. It was the 
period when they were always on the watch for one 
or the other of the specialists employed about the place; 
always lying in wait for them, and rushing out at them 
with questions, reproaches or reminders. And certainly 
in the distance the grey figure had looked like Peters. 
Yet now, as she reviewed the scene, she felt her 
husband's explanation of it to have been invalidated by 
the look of anxiety on his face. Why had the familiar 
appearance of Peters made him anxious ? Why, above 
all, if it was of such prime necessity to confer with him 
on the subject of the stable drains, had the failure to 
find him produced such a look of relief? Mary could 
not say that any one of these questions had occurred to 
her at the time, yet, from the promptness with which 
they now marshalled themselves at her summons, she 
had a sense that they must all along have been there, 
waiting their hour. 

n 

Weabt with her thoughts, she moved to the window. 
The libraiy was now quite dark, and she was surprised 
to see how much faint light the outer world still held. 
As she peered out Into it across the court, a figure 
shaped itself far down the perspective of bare limes: 

[ S85 ] 



AFTERWARD 

it looked a mere blot of deeper grey in the grejmess, 
and for an instant, as it moved toward her, her heart 
thumped to the thought ''It's the ghost!'' 

She had time, in that long instant, to feel suddenly 
that the man of whom, two months earlier, she had 
had a distant vision from the roof, was now, at his 
predestined hour, about to reveal himself as not 
having been Peters; and her spirit sank under the im- 
pending fear of the disclosure. But almost with the 
next tick of the clock the figure, gaining substance and 
character, showed itself even to her weak sight as her 
husband's; and she turned to meet him, as he entered, 
with the confession of her folly. 

''It's really too absurd," she laughed out, "but I 
never can remember!" 

"Remember what?" Boyne questioned as they drew 
together. 

"That when one sees the Lyng ghost one never 
knows it." 

Her hand was on his sleeve, and he kept it there, 
but with no response in his gesture or in the lines of 
his preoccupied face. 

"Did you think you'd seen it?" he asked, after an 
appreciable interval. 

"Why, I actually took you for it, my dear, in my 

mad determination to spot it!" 

"Me — just now?" His arm dropped away, and he 

[ 336 ] 



AFTERWARD 

turned from her with a famt echo of her laugh. '* Really, 
dearest, you'd better give it up, if that's the best you 
can do." 

''Oh, yes, I give it up. Have you ?** she asked, turn- 
ing round on him abruptly. 

The parlour-maid had entered with letters and a 
lamp, and the light struck up into Boyne's face as he 
bent above the tray she presented. 

"Have you ?** Maiy perversely insisted, when the 
servant had disappeared on her errand of illumination. 

''Have I what?" he rejoined absently, the light 
bringing out the sharp stamp of worry between his 
brows as he turned over the letters. 

"Given up trying to see the ghost." Her heart beat 
a little at the experiment she was making. 

Her husband, laying his letters aside, moved away 
into the shadow of the hearth. 

"I never tried," he said, tearing open the wrapper 
of a newspaper. 

"Well, of course," Mary persisted, "the exasperat- 
ing thing is that there's no use trying, since one can't 
be sure till so long afterward." 

He was unfolding the paper as if he had hardly heard 
her; but after a pause, during which the sheets rustled 
spasmodically between his hands, he looked up to ask, 
"Have you any idea hjow long ?** 

Mary had sunk into a low chair beside the fireplace. 

[ 337 ] 



AFTERWARD 

From her seat she glanced over, startled, at her hus- 
band's profile, which was projected against the circle 
of lamplight. 

*'No; none. Have you f" she retorted, repeating her 
former phrase with an added stress of intention. 

Boyne crumpled the paper into a bunch, and then, 
inconsequently, turned back with it toward the lamp. 

*'Lord, no! I only meant," he explained, with a faint 
tinge of impatience, "is there any l^end, any tradition, 
as to that?" 

''Not that I know of," she answered; but the im- 
pulse to add ''What makes you ask?" was checked by 
the reappearance of the parlour-maid, with tea and a 
second lamp. 

With the dispersal of shadows, and the repetition 
of the daily domestic office, Maiy Boyne felt herself 
less oppressed by that sense of something mutely im- 
minent which had darkened her afternoon. For a few 
moments she gave herself to the details of her task, 
and when she looked up from it she was struck to the 
point of bewilderment by the change in her husband's 
face. He had seated himself near the farther lamp, 
and was absorbed in the perusal of his letters; but 
was it something he had found in them, or merely the 
shifting of her own point of view, that had restored his 
features to their normal aspect ? The longer she looked 
the more definitely the change affirmed itself. The 

[ 338 ] 



AFTERWARD 

lines of tension had vanished, and such traces of 
fatigue as lingered were of the kind easily attributable 
to steady mental effort. He glanced up, as if drawn 
by her gaze, and met her eyes with a smile. 

"I'm dying for my tea, you know; and here's a letter 
for you," he said. 

She took the letter he held out in exchange for the 
cup she proffered him, and, returning to her seat, broke 
the seal with the languid gesture of the reader whose 
interests are all enclosed in the circle of one cherished 
presence. 

Her next conscious motion was that of starting to her 
feet, the letter falling to them as she rose, while she held 
out to her husband a newspaper clipping. 

"Ned! What's this? What does it mean?" 

He had risen at the same instant, almost as if hearing 
her cry before she uttered it; and for a perceptible space 
of time he and she studied each other, like adversaries 
watching for an advantage, across the space between 
her chair and his desk. 

"What's what? You fairly made me jump!" Boyne 
said at length, moving toward her with a sudden half- 
exasperated laugh. The shadow of apprehension was 
on his face again, not now a look of fixed forebod- 
ing, but a shifting vigilance of lips and eyes that 
gave her the sense of his feeling himself invisibly sur* 
rounded. 

[ 339 ] 



AFTERWARD 

Her hand shook so that she could hardly give him 
the clipping. 

"This article — ^from the WatJcesJia Sentinel — ^that a 
man named Elwell has brought suit against you — ^that 
there was something wrong about the Blue Star Mine. 
I can't understand more than half/' 

They continued to face each other as she spoke, and 
to her astonishment she saw that her words had the 
almost immediate effect of dissipating the strained 
watchfulness of his look. 

"Oh, ilwJt /" He glanced down the printed slip, and 
then folded it with the gesture of one who handles 
something harmless and familiar. "What's the matter 
with you this afternoon, Mary? I thought you'd got 
bad news." 

She stood before him with her undefinable tenor 
subsiding slowly under the reassurance of his tone. 

"You knew about this, then — it's all right ?" 

"Certainly I knew about it; and it's all right." 

"But what iff it? I don't understand. What does 
this man accuse you of?" 

"Pretty nearly every crime in the calendar." Boyne 
had tossed the clipping down, and thrown himself 
into an arm-chair near the fire. "Do you want to hear 
the story? It's not particularly interesting — ^just a 
squabble over interests in the Blue Star." 

"But who is this Elwell? I don't know the name." 

[ 340 ] 



AFTERWARD 

*'Oh» he's a fellow I put into it — gave him a hand up. 
I told you all about him at the time." 

''I daresay. I must have forgotten." Vainly she 
strained back among her memories. "But if you helped 
him, why does he make this return ?" 

"Probably some shyster lawyer got hold of him and 
talked him over. It's all rather technical and compli- 
cated. I thought that kind of thing bored you." 

His wife felt a sting of compunction. Theoretically^ 
she deprecated the American wife's detachment from 
her husband's professional interests, but in practice she 
had always found it diflScult to fix her attention on 
Boyne's report of the transactions in which his varied 
interests involved him. Besides, she had felt during 
their years of exile, that, in a community where the 
amenities of living could be obtained only at the cost 
of efforts as arduous as her husband's professional 
labours, such brief leisure as he and she could command 
should be used as an escape from immediate preoc- 
cupations, a flight to the life they always dreamed of 
living. Once or twice, now that this new life had actu- 
ally drawn its magic circle about them, she had asked 
herself if she had done right; but hitherto such con* 
jectures had been no more than the retrospective 
excursions of an active fancy. Now, for the first time, 
it startled her a little to find how little she knew of the 

material foundation on which her happiness was built. 

[841] 



AFTERWARD 

She glanced at her husband, and was again reassured 
by the composure of his face; yet she felt the need of 
more definite grounds for her reassurance. 

''But doesn't this suit worry you? Why have you 
never spoken to me about it?" 

He answered both questions at once. ''I didn't 
speak of it at first because it did worry me — ^annoyed 
me, rather. But it's all ancient history now. Your cone- 
spondent must have got hold of a back number of the 
Sentinel. " 

She felt a quick thrill of relief. "You mean it's over? 
He's lost his case?" 

There was a just perceptible delay in Boyne's reply. 
"The suit's been withdrawn — that's all." 

But she persisted, as if to exonerate herself from the 
inward charge of being too easily put off. "Withdrawn 
it because he saw he had no chance ?" 

"Oh, he had no chance," Boyne answered. 

She was still struggling with a dimly felt perplexity 
at the back of her thoughts. 

"How long ago was it withdrawn?" 

He paused, as if with a slight return of his former 
uncertainty. "I've just had the news now; but I've been 
expecting it." 

"Just now — in one of your letters ?" 

"Yes; in one of my letters." 

She made no answer, and was aware only, after a 

[ 342 ] 



AFTERWARD 

short interval of waiting, that he had risen, and, strolling 
across the room» had placed himself on the sofa at her 
side. She felt him, as he did so, pass an arm about her, 
she felt his hand seek hers and clasp it, and turning 
slowly, drawn by the warmth of his cheek, she met his 
smiling eyes. 

''It's all right — ^it's all right?" she questioned, 
through the flood of her dissolving doubts; and ''I 
give you my word it was never righter!*' he laughed 
back at her, holding her dose. 

m 

Onk of the strangest things she was afterward to recall 
out of all the next day's strangeness was the sudden and 
complete recovery of her sense of security. 

It was in the air when she woke in her low-ceiled, 
dusky room; it went with her down-stairs to the 
breakfast-table, flashed out at her from the fire, and re- 
duplicated itself from the flanks of the urn and the 
sturdy flutings of the Georgian teapot. It was as if, in 
some roundabout way, all her diffused fears of the 
previous day, with their moment of sharp concentra- 
tion about the newspaper article — as if this dim ques- 
tioning of the future, and startled return upon the past» 
had between them liquidated the arrears of some 
haunting moral obligation. If she had indeed been 

[848] 



AFTERWARD 

careless of her husband's affairs, it was, her new state 
seemed to prove, because her faith in him instinctively 
justified such carelessness; and his right to her faith 
had now affirmed itself in the very face of menace and 
suspicion. She had never seen him more untroubled, 
more naturally and unconsciously himself, than after 
the cross-examination to which she had subjected hun: 
it was almost as if he had been aware of her doubts, 
and had wanted the air cleared as much as she did. 

It was as clear, thank Heaven! as the bright outer 
light that surprised her almost with a touch of summer 
when she issued from the house for her daily round of 
the gardens. She had left Boyne at his desk, indulging 
herself, as she passed the library door, by a last peep 
at his quiet face, where he bent, pipe in mouth, above 
his papers; and now she had her own morning's task 
to perform. The task involved, on such charmed 
winter days, almost as much happy loitering about the 
different quarters of her demesne as if spring were 
already at work there. There were such endless pos- 
sibilities still before her, such opportunities to bring 
out the latent graces of the old place, without a single 
irreverent touch of alteration, that the winter was 
all too short to plan what spring and autumn ex- 
ecuted. And her recovered sense of safety gave, on 
this particular morning, a peculiar zest to her progress 
through the sweet still place. She went first to the 

[ 944 ] 



AFTERWARD 

kitchen-gaiden, where the espaliered pear-trees drew 
<x>mplicated patterns on the walls, and pigeons were 
fluttering and preening about the silvery-slated roof 
of their cot. There was something wrong about the 
piping of the hot-house, and she was expecting an 
authority from Dorchester, who was to drive out be- 
tween trains and make a diagnosis of the boiler. But 
when she dipped into the damp heat of the green- 
houses, among the spiced scents and waxy pinks and 
reds of old-fashioned exotics — even the flora of Lyng 
was in the note! — she learned that the great man had 
not arrived, and, the day being too rare to waste in 
an artificial atmosphere, she came out again and 
paced along the springy turf of the bowling-green to< 
the gardens behind the house. At their farther end rose 
a grass terrace, looking across the fish-pond and yew 
hedges to the long house-front with its twisted chimney- 
stacks and blue roof angles all drenched in the pale gold 
moisture of the air. 

Seen thus, across the level tracery of the gardens, it 
sent her, from open windows and hospitably smoking 
chimneys, the look of some warm human presence, of 
a mind slowly ripened on a sunny wall of experience. 
She had never before had such a sense of her intimacy 
with it, such a conviction that its secrets were all be- 
neficent, kept, as they said to children, ''for one's good,*' 
such a trust in its power to gather up her life and Ned's 

[845] 



AFTERWARD 

into the harmonious pattern of the long long story it sat 
there weaving in the sun. 

She heard steps behind her» and turned* expecting 
to see the gardener accompanied by the engineer from 
Dorchester. But only one figure was in sight, that of a 
youngish slightly built man, who, for reasons she could 
not on the spot have given, did not remotely resemble 
her notion of an authority on hot-house boilers. The 
new-comer, on seeing her, lifted his hat, and paused 
with the air of a gentleman — perhaps a traveller — who 
wishes to make it known that hb intrusion is involun- 
tary. Lyng occasionally attracted the more cultivated 
traveller, and Maiy half-expected to see the stranger 
dissemble a camera, or justify his presence by produ- 
cing it. But he made no gesture of any sort, and after a 
moment she asked, in a tone responding to the courteous 
hesitation of his attitude: ''Is there any one you wish 
to see?'* 

** I came to see Mr. Boyne,'* he answered. His intona- 
tion, rather than his accent, was faintly American, and 
.Mary, at the note, looked at him more closely. The 
brim of his soft felt hat cast a shade on his face, which, 
thus obscured, wore to her short-sighted gaze a look of 
seriousness, as of a person arriving ''on business," and 
civilly but firmly aware of his rights. 

Past experience had made her equally sensible to 

such claims; but she was jealous of her husband's 

[846] 



AFTERWARD 

morning hours, and doubtful of his having given any 
one the right to intrude on them. 

^'Have you an appointment with my husband ?" she 
asked. 

The visitor hesitated, as if unprepared for the 
question. 

"I think he expects me/' he replied. 

It was Mary's turn to hesitate. ''You see this is his 
time for work: he never sees any one in the mom- 
mg. 

He looked at her a moment without answering; 
then, as if accepting her decision, he b^an to move 
away. As he turned, Maiy saw him pause and glance 
up at the peaceful house-front. Something in his air 
suggested weariness and disappointment, the dejection 
of the traveller who has come from far off and whose 
hours are limited by the time-table. It occurred to her 
that if this were the case her refusal might have made 
his errand vain, and a sense of compimction caused her 
to hasten after him. 

"May I ask if you have come a long way?" 

He gave her the same grave look. "Yes — I have come 
a long way." 

"Then, if you'll go to the house, no doubt my 
husband will see you now. You'll find him in the 
Ubraiy." 

She did not know why she had added the last phrase, 

[347] 



AFTERWARD 

except from a vague impulse to atone for her previous 
inhospitality. The visitor seemed about to express his 
thanks, but her attention was distracted by the ap- 
proach of the gardener with a companion who bore all 
the marks of being the expert from Dorchester. 

"This way/' she said, waving the stranger to the 
house; and an instant later she had forgotten him in 
the absorption of her meeting with the boiler-maker. 

The encounter led to such far-reaching results that 
the engineer ended by finding it expedient to ignore 
his train, and Mary was beguiled into spending the 
remainder of the morning in absorbed confabulation 
among the flower-pots. When the colloquy ended, she 
was surprised to find that it was nearly luncheon- 
time, and she half expected, as she hurried hack to 
the house, to see her husband coming out to meet her. 
But she found no one in the court but an under- 
gardener raking the gravel, and the hall, when she 
entered it, was so silent that she guessed Boyne to be 
still at work. 

Not wishing to disturb him, she turned into the 
drawing-room, and there, at her writing-table, lost her- 
self in renewed calculations of the outlay to which the 
morning's conference had pledged her. The fact that 
she could permit herself such follies had not yet lost 
its novelty; and somehow, in contrast to the vague 
fears of the previous days, it now seemed an ele- 

[ 948 ] 



AFTERWARD 

ment of her recovered security, of the sense that» as 
Ned had said, things in general had never been 
"righter." 

She was still luxuriating in a lavish play ot figures 
when the parlour-maid, from the threshold, roused her 
with an enquiry as to the expediency of serving 
luncheon. It was one of their jokes that Trinmile an- 
nounced luncheon as if she were divulging a state 
secret, and Mary, intent upon her papers, merely mui^ 
mured an absent-minded assent. 

She felt Trimmle wavering doubtfully on the thresh- 
old, as if in rebuke of such unconsidered assent; then 
her retreating steps sounded down the passage, and 
Mary, pushing away her papers, crossed the hall and 
went to the library door. It was still closed, and she 
wavered in her turn, disliking to disturb her husband, 
yet anxious that he should not exceed his usual 
measure of work. As she stood there, balancing her 
impulses, Trimmle returned with the announcement of 
luncheon, and Maiy, thus impelled, opened the library 
door. 

Boyne was not at his desk, and she peered about 
her, expecting to discover him before the book-shelves, 
somewhere down the length of the room; but her call 
brought no response, and gradually it became clear to 
her that he was not there. 

She turned back to the parlour-maid. 

[ 349 ] 



AFTERWARD 



'"Mr. Boyne must be up-stairs. Please tell him that 
luncheon is ready.*' 

Trimmle appeared to hesitate between the obvious 
duty of obedience and an equally obvious conviction 
of the foolishness of the injunction laid on her. The 
struggle resulted in her saying: "If you please, Madam» 
Mr. Boyne*s not up-stairs." 

"Not in his room ? Are you sure ?" 

"I'm sure, Madam." 

Mary consulted the clock. "Where is he, then ?" 

"He's gone out," Trinmile announced, with the 
superior air of one who has respectfully waited for the 
question that a well-ordered mind would have put 
first. 

Maiy's conjecture had been right, then. Boyne must 
have gone to the gardens to meet her, and since she 
had missed him, it was clear that he had taken the 
shorter way by the south door, instead of going round 
to the court. She crossed the hall to the French 
window opening directly on the yew garden, but the 
parlour-maid, after another moment of inner conflict, 
decided to bring out: "Please, Madam, Mr. Boyne 
didn't go that way." 

Maiy turned back. "Where did he go ? And when ?" 

"He went out of the front door, up the drive. Mad- 
am." It was a matter of principle with Trimmle never 
to answer more than one question at a time. 

[ 350 ] 



AFTERWARD 

" Up the drive ? At this hour ? " Maiy went to the door 
herself, and glanced across the court through the tunnel 
of bare limes. But its perspective was as empty as when 
she had scanned it on entering. 

**Did Mr. Boyne leave no message?'* 

Trimmle seemed to surrender herself to a last strug- 
gle with the forces of chaos. 

No, Madam. He just went out with the gentle- 



ft 



man. 

€4 



The gentleman ? What gentleman ?" Mary wheeled 
about, as if to front this new factor. 

*'The gentleman who called. Madam," said Trimmle 
resignedly. 

*'When did a gentleman call? Do explain yourself, 
Trimmle!" 

Only the fact that Maiy was veiy hungry, and that 
she wanted to consult her husband about the green- 
houses, would have caused her to lay so unusual an in- 
junction on her attendant; and even now she was de- 
tached enough to note in Trimmle's eye the dawning 
defiance of the respectful subordinate who has been 
pressed too hard. 

"I couldn't exactly say the hour. Madam, because 

I didn't let the gentleman in," she replied, with an air 

of discreetly ignoring the irregularity of her mistress's 

course. 

"You didn't let him in?" 

[551] 



AFTERWARD 

^'No, Madam. When the bell rang I was dressing, and 
Agnes " 

^'Go and ask Agnes, then/' said Maiy. 

Trimmle still wore her look of patient magnanimity. 
"Agnes would not know, Madam» for she had unfor- 
tunately burnt her hand in trimming the wick of the 
new lamp from town" — ^Trimmle, as Maiy was aware, 
had always been opposed to the new lamp — ^''and so 
Mrs. Dockett sent the kitchen-maid instead." 

Maiy looked again at the clock. "It's after two! Go 
and ask the kitchen-maid if Mr. Boyne left any word.'* 

She went into luncheon without waiting, and Trimmle 
presently brought her there the kitchen-maid's state- 
ment that the gentleman had called about eleven 
o'clock, and that Mr. Boyne had gone out with him 
without leaving any message. The kitchen-maid did 
not even know the caller's name, for he had written it 
on a slip of paper, which he had folded and handed to 
her, with the injunction to deliver it at once to Mr. 
Boyne. 

Maiy finished her luncheon, still wondering^ and 
when it was over, and Trimmle had brought the coffee 
to the drawing-room, her wonder had deepened to a 
first faint tinge of disquietude. It was unlike Boyne to 
absent himself without explanation at so unwonted an 
hour, and the difficulty of identifying the visitor whose 
summons he had apparently obeyed made his disap- 

[ 352 ] 



AFTERWARD 

pearance the more unaccountable. Mary Boyne's ex- 
perience as the wife of a busy engineer, subject to sud- 
den calls and compelled to keep irregular hours, had 
trained her to the philosophic acceptance of surprises; 
but since Boyne's withdrawal from business he had 
adopted a Benedictine regularity of life. As if to make 
up for the dispersed and agitated years, with their 
*' stand-up" lunches, and dinners rattled down to the 
joltings of the dining-cars, he cultivated the last refine- 
ments of punctuality and monotony, discouraging his 
wife's fancy for the unexpected, and declaring that to 
a delicate taste there were infinite gradations of pleasure 
in the recurrences of habit. 

Still, since no life can completely defend itself from 
the unforeseen, it was evident that all Boyne's precau- 
tions would sooner or later prove unavailable, and Mary 
concluded that he had cut short a tiresome visit by 
walking with his caller to the station, or at least ac- 
companying him for part of the way. 

This conclusion relieved her from farther preoccu- 
pation, and she went out herself to take up her confer- 
ence with the gardener. Thence she walked to the vil- 
lage post-oflSce, a mile or so away; and when she turned 
toward home the early twilight was setting in. 

She had taken a foot-path across the downs, and as 
Boyne, meanwhile, had probably returned from the 
station by the highroad, there was little likelihood of 

[ S5S ] 



AFTERWARD 

their meeting. She felt sure, however, of his having 
reached the house before her; so sure that, when she 
entered it herself, without even pausing to inquire of 
Trimmie, she made directly for the library. But the 
libraiy was still empty, and with an unwonted exactness 
of visual memoiy she observed that the papers on her 
husband's desk lay precisely as they had lain when she 
had gone in to call him to luncheon. 

Then of a sudden she was seized by a vague dread of 
the unknown. She had closed the door behind her on 
entering, and as she stood alone in the long silent 
room, her dread seemed to take shape and sound, to 
be there breathing and lurking among the shadows. 
Her short-sighted eyes strained through them, half- 
discerning an actual presence, something aloof, that 
watched and knew; and in the recoil from that in- 
tangible presence she threw herself on the bell-rope and 
gave it a sharp pull. 

The sharp summons brought Trimmie in precipitately 
with a lamp, and Mary breathed again at this sobering 
reappearance of the usual. 

"You may bring tea if Mr. Boyne is in," she said, 
to justify her ring. 

"Very well. Madam. But Mr. Boyne is not in,'' said 
Trinmile, putting down the lamp. 

"Not in? You mean he's come back and gone out 

agamr 

[354] 



AFTERWARD 

**No, Madam. He's never been back." 

The dread stirred again, and Maiy knew that now 
it had her fast. 

"Not since he went out with — ^the gentleman?" 

"Not since he went out with the gentleman." 

" But who ti;a9 the gentleman?" Maiy insisted, with 
the shrill note of some one tiying to be heard through 
a confusion of noises. 

"That I couldn't say. Madam." Trimmle, standing 
there by the lamp, seemed suddenly to grow less round 
and rosy, as though eclipsed by the same creeping 
shade of apprehension. 

"But the kitchen-maid knows — ^wasn't it the kitchen- 
maid who let him in ?" 

"She doesn't know either. Madam, for he wrote his 
name on a folded paper." 

Mary, through her agitation, was aware that they 
were both designating the unknown visitor by a vague 
pronoun, instead of the conventional formula which, 
till then, had kept their allusions within the bounds of 
conformity. And at the same moment her mind caught 
at the suggestion of the folded paper. 

"But he must have a name! Where's the pa- 
per?" 

She moved to the desk, and beffLU to turn over the 
documents that littered it. The first that caught her eye 
was an unfinished letter in her husband's hand, with his 

[ 355 ] 



AFTERWARD 

pen lying across it, as though dropped there at a sud- 
den summons. 

"My dear Parvis" — who was Parvis? — "I have just 
received your letter announcing Elwell's death, and 
while I suppose there is now no farther risk of trouble^ 
it might be safer " 

She tossed the sheet aside, and continued her search; 
but no folded paper was discoverable among the letters 
and pages of manuscript which had been swept to- 
gether in a heap, as if by a hurried or a startled gesture. 

"But the kitchen-maid saw him. Send her here,** 
she commanded, wondering at her dulness in not 
thinking sooner of so simple a solution. 

Trinmile vanished in a flash, as if thankful to be 
out of the room, and when she reappeared, conducting 
the agitated underling, Mary had regained her self- 
possession, and had her questions ready. 

The gentleman was a stranger, yes — ^that she under- 
stood. But what had he said ? And, above all, what had 
he looked like? The first question was easily enough 
answered, for the disconcerting reason that he had said 
so little — ^had merely asked for Mr. Boyne, and, scrib- 
bling something on a bit of paper, had requested that 
it should at once be carried in to him. 

"Then you don't know what he wrote? You're not 
sure it vxu his name ?" 

The kitchen-maid was not sure, but supposed it was, 

[ 356 ] 



AFTERWARD 

since he had written it in answer to her inquiry as to 
whom she should announce. 

"And when you carried the paper in to Mr. Boyne, 
what did he say?" 

The kitchen-maid did not think that Mr. Boyne had 
said anything, but she could not be sure, for just as she 
had handed him the paper and he was opening it» 
she had become aware that the visitor had followed her 
into the libraiy, and she had slipped out, leaving the 
two gentlemen together. 

'^But then, if you left them in the library, how do you 
know that they went out of the house ?" 

This question plunged the witness into a momentary 
inarticulateness, from which she was rescued by 
Trimmle, who, by means of ingenious circumlocutions, 
elicited the statement that before she could cross the 
hall to the back passage she had heard the two 
gentlemen behind her, and had seen them go out of 
the front door together. 

'*Then, if you saw the strange gentleman twice, you 
must be able to tell me what he looked like." 

But with this final challenge to her powers of ex* 
pression it became clear that the limit of the kitchen- 
maid's endurance had been reached. The obligation of 
going to the front door to "show in" a visitor was in 
itself so subversive of the fundamental order of things 
that it had thrown her faculties into hopeless 

[357] 



AFTERWARD 

and she could only stammer out, after various panting 
efforts: ''His hat, mum, was different-like, as you 
might say '* 

"Different? How different?" Maiy flashed out, her 
own mind, in the same instant, leaping back to an image 
left on it that morning, and then lost under layers of 
subsequent impressions. 

"His hat had a wide brim, you mean ? and his face 
was pale — a youngish face?'' Mary pressed her, with 
a white-lipped intensity of interrogation. But if the 
kitchen-maid found any adequate answer to this chal- 
lenge, it was swept away for her listener down the rush- 
ing current of her own convictions. The stranger — the 
stranger in the garden! Why had Mary not thought of 
him before ? She needed no one now to tell her that it 
was he who had called for her husband and gone away 
with him. But who was he, and why had Boyne obeyed 
him? 

IV 

It leaped out at her suddenly, like a grin out of the 
dark, that th^ had often called England so little — 
"such a confoundedly hard place to get lost in.*' 

A confoundedly hard place to gel lost in I That had 
been her husband's phrase. And now, with the whole 
machinery of official investigation sweeping its flash- 
lights from shore to shore, and across the dividing 

[ 358 ] 



AFTERWARD 

straits; now, with Boyne's name blazing from the walls 
of eveiy town and village, hb portrait (how that wrung 
her!) hawked up and down the country like the image 
of a hunted criminal; now the little compact populous 
bland, so policed, surveyed and adminbtered, revealed 
itself as a Sphinx-like guardian of abysmal mysteries^ 
staring back into hb wife's angubhed eyes as if with 
the wicked joy of knowing something they would 
never know! 

In the fortnight since Boyne's disappearance there 
had been no word of him, no trace of hb movements. 
Even the usual mbleading reports that raise expectancy 
in tortured bosoms had been few and fleeting. No one 
but the kitchen-maid had seen Boyne leave the house, 
and no one ebe had seen *'the gentleman" who ac- 
companied him. All enquiries in the neighbourhood 
failed to elicit the memory of a stranger's presence that 
day in the neighbourhood of Lyng. And no one had 
met Edward Boyne, either alone or in company, in 
any of the neighbouring villages, or on the road across 
the downs, or at either of the local railway-stations. 
The sunny Englbh noon had swallowed him as com- 
pletely as if he had gone out into Cimmerian night. 

Mary, while every official means of investigation 
was working at its highest pressure, had ransacked her 
husband's papers for any trace of antecedent compli- 
cations, of entanglements or obligations unknown to 

[ 359 ] 



AFTERWARD 

her, that might throw a ray into the darkness. But if 
any such had existed in the background of Boyne's 
life, they had vanished like the slip of paper on which 
the visitor had written his name. There remained no 
possible thread of guidance except — ^if it were indeed an 
exception — the letter which Boyne had apparently been 
in the act of writing when he received his mysterious 
summons. That letter, read and reread by his wife, 
and submitted by her to the police, yielded little 
enough to feed conjecture. 

"'I have just heard of ElwelPs death, and while I 
suppose there is now no farther risk of trouble, it 
might be safer ** That was all. The "risk of trou- 
ble" was easily explained by the newspaper clipping 
which had apprised Mary of the suit brought against 
her husband by one of his associates in the Blue Star 
enterprise. The only new information conveyed by the 
letter was the fact of its showing Boyne, when he wrote 
it, to be still apprehensive of the results of the suit, 
though he had told his wife that it had been with- 
drawn, and though the letter itself proved that the 
plaintiff was dead. It took several days of cabling to 
fix the identity of the "Parvis" to whom the fragment 
was addressed, but even after these enquiries had 
shown him to be a Waukesha lawyer, no new facts con- 
cerning the Elwell suit were elicited. He appeared to 
have had no direct concern in it, but to have been con- 

[ 360 ] 



AFTERWARD 

Tenant with the facts merely as an acquaintance^ and 
possible intermediaiy; and he declared himself unable 
to guess with what object Boyne intended to seek his 
assistance. 

This negative information, sole fruit of the first 
fortnight's search, was not increased by a jot during 
the slow weeks that followed. Mary knew that the 
investigations were still being carried on, but she had 
a vague sense of their gradually slackening, as the 
actual march of time seemed to slacken. It was as 
though the days, flying horror-struck from the shrouded 
image of the one inscrutable day, gained assurance as 
the distance lengthened, till at last they fell back into 
their normal gait. And so with the human imaginations 
at work on the dark event. No doubt it occupied them 
still, but week by week and hour by hour it grew less 
absorbing, took up less space, was slowly but inevitably 
crowded out of the foreground of consciousness by the 
new problems perpetually bubbling up from the cloudy 
caldron of human experience. 

Even Maiy Boyne's consciousness gradually felt the 
same lowering of velocity. It still swayed with the in- 
cessant oscillations of conjecture; but they were slower, 
more rhythmical in their beat. There were even mo- 
ments of weariness when, like the victim of some poison 
which leaves the brain clear, but holds the body 
motionless, she saw herself domesticated with the 

[861] 



AFTERWARD 

Horror, accepting its perpetual presence as one of the 
fixed conditions of life. 

These moments lengthened into hours and days^ till 
she passed into a phase of stolid acquiescence. She 
watched the routine of daily life with the incurious 
eye of a savage on whom the meaningless processes of 
civilisation make but the faintest impression. She had 
come to regard herself as part of the routine, a spoke of 
the wheel, revolving with its motion; she felt almost like 
the furniture of the room in which she sat, an insensate 
object to be dusted and pushed about with the chairs 
and tables. And this deepening apathy held her fast 
at Lyng, in spite of the entreaties of friends and 
the usual medical recommendation of '* change." Her 
friends supposed that her refusal to move was inspired 
by the belief that her husband would one day return to 
the spot from which he had vanished, and a beautiful 
legend grew up about this imaginary state of waiting. 
But in reality she had no such belief: the depths of 
anguish enclosing her were no longer lighted by flashes 
of hope. She was sure that Boyne would never come 
back, that he had gone out of her sight as completely 
as if Death itself had waited that day on the threshold. 
She had even renounced, one by one, the various theo- 
ries as to his disappearance which had been advanced 
by the press, the police, and her own agonised imagina- 
tion. In sheer lassitude her mind turned from these 

[ 362 ] 



AFTERWARD 

alternatives of honor» and sank back into the blank 
fact that he was gone. 

N09 she would never know what had become of 
him — ^no one would ever know. But the house knew ; 
the library in which she spent her long lonely evenings 
knew. For it was here that the last scene had been 
enacted, here that the stranger had come, and spoken 
the word which had caused Boyne to rise and follow 
him. The floor she trod had felt his tread; the books 
on the shelves had seen his face; and there were mo- 
ments when the intense consciousness of the old dusky 
walb seemed about to break out into some audible 
revelation of their secret. But the revelation never came, 
and she knew it would never come. L}mg was not one 
of the garrulous old houses that betray the secrets 
entrusted to them. Its very lq;end proved that it had 
always been the mute accomplice, the incorruptible 
custodian, of the mysteries it had surprised. And Mary 
Boyne, sitting face to face with its silence, felt the 
futility of seeking to break it by any human means. 



** I don't say it wasnH straight, and yet I don't say it 
was straight. It was business." 

Mary, at the words, lifted her head with a start, 
and looked intently at the speaker. 

[ 36S ] 



AFTERWARD 

When, half an hour before, a card with "Mr. Parvis" 
on it had been brought up to her, she had been im- 
mediately aware that the name had been a part of 
her consciouaness ever since she had read it at the head 
of Boyne's unfinished letter. In the library she had found 
awaiting her a small sallow man with a bald head and 
gold eye-glasses, and it sent a tremor through her to 
know that this was the person to whom her husband's 
last known thought had been directed. 

Parvis, civilly, but without vain preamble — in the 
manner of a man who has his watch in his hand — ^had 
set forth the object of his visit. He had "run over*' to 
England on business, and finding himself in the neigh- 
bourhood of Dorchester, had not wished to leave it 
without paying his respects to Mrs. Boyne; and without 
asking her, if the occasion offered, what she meant to 
do about Bob Elwell's family. 

The words touched the spring of some obscure dread 
in Mary's bosom. Did her visitor, after all, know what 
Boyne had meant by his unfinished phrase ? She asked 
for an elucidation of his question, and noticed at once 
that he seemed surprised at her continued ignorance 
of the subject. Was it possible that she really knew as 
little as she said ? 

"I know nothing — ^you must tell me," she faltered 
out; and her visitor thereupon proceeded to unfold his 
story. It threw, even to her confused perceptions, and 

[ 36^ ] 



AFTERWARD 

imperfectly initiated vision, a lurid glare on the whole 
hazy episode of the Blue Star Mine. Her husband had 
made his money in that brilliant speculation at the 
cost of "getting ahead" of some one less alert to seize 
the chance; and the victim of his ingenuity was young 
Robert Elwell, who had "put him on" to the Blue 
Star scheme. 

Parvisy at Mary's first ay, had thrown her a sober- 
ing glance through his impartial glasses. 

"Bob Elwell wasn't smart enough, that's all; if 
he had been, he might have turned round and served 
Boyne the same way. It's the kind of thing that hap- 
pens every day in business. I guess it's what the 
scientists call the survival of the fittest — see?" said J 
Mr. Parvis, evidently pleased with the aptness of his 
analogy. 

Maiy felt a physical shrinking from the next ques- 
tion she tried to frame: it was as though the words on 
her lips had a taste that nauseated her. 

"But then — ^you accuse my husband of doing some- 
thing dishonourable?" 

Mr. Parvis surveyed the question dispassionately. 
"Oh, no, I don't. I don't even say it wasn't straight." 
He glanced up and down the long lines of books, as if 
one of them might have supplied him with the defini- 
tion he sought. "I don't say it wasnH straight, and yet 
I don't say it vku straight. It was business." After all, 

[ S65 ] 



AFTERWARD 

no definition in his cat^oiy could be more oompre- 
hensive than that. 

Mary sat staring at him with a look of terror. He 
seemed to her like the indifferent emissary of some 
evil power. 

"But Mr. Elwell's lawyers apparently did not take 
your view, since I suppose the suit was withdrawn by 
their advice." 

"Oh, yes; they knew he hadn't a 1^ to stand on, 
technically. It was when they advised him to withdraw 
the suit that he got desperate. You see, he*d borrowed 
most of the money he lost in the Blue Star, and he was 
up a tree. That's why he shot himself when they told 
him he had no show.'' 

The horror was sweeping over Mary in great deafen- 
ing waves. 

"He shot himself? He killed himself because of 
that?*' 

"Well, he didn't kill himself, exactly. He dragged on 
two months before he died." Parvis emitted the state- 
ment as unemotionally as a gramophone grinding out 
its "record." 

"You mean that he tried to kill himself, and failed ? 
And tried again?" 

"Oh, he didn't have to try again," said Parvis 
grimly. 

They sat opposite each other in silence, he swinging 

[ 366 ] 



AFTERWARD 

his eye-glasses thoughtfully about his finger, she» 
motionless, her arms stretched along her knees in an 
attitude of rigid tension. 

*'But if you knew all this/' she began at length, 
hardly able to force her voice above a whisper, *'how 
is it that when I wrote you at the time of my husband's 
disappearance you said you didn't understand his 
letter?" 

Parvis received this without perceptible embarrass- 
ment: '* Why, I didn't understand it — strictly speaking. 
And it wasn't the time to talk about it, if I had. The 
Elwell business was settled when the suit was with- 
drawn. Nothing I could have told you would have 
helped you to find your husband." 

Mary continued to scrutinise him. "Then why are 
you telling me now?" 

Still Parvis did not hesitate. *'Well, to begin with, I 
supposed you knew more than you appear to — I mean 
about the circumstances of Elwell's death. And then 
people are talking of it now; the whole matter's been 
raked up again. And I thought if you didn't know you 
ought to." 

She remained silent, and he continued: *'You see, 
it's only come out lately what a bad state Elwell's 
affairs were in. His wife's a proud woman, and she 
fought on as long as she could, going out to work, and 
taking sewing at home when she got too sick — some- 

[ 367 ] 



AFTERWARD 

thing with the heart, I believe. But she had his mother 
to look after, and the chfldien, and she broke down 
under it, and finaUy had to ask for help. That called 
attention to the case, and the papers took it up, and 
a subscription was started. Everybody out there liked 
Bob Elwell, and most of the prominent names in the 
place are down on the list, and people began to 
wonder why " 



broke oflF to fumble in an inner pocket. 
''Here,*' he continued, ''here's an account of the whole 
thing from the Sentinel — a little sensational, of course. 
But I guess you'd better look it over." 

He held out a newspaper to Maiy, who unfolded it 
slowly, remembering, as she did so, the evening when, 
in that same room, the perusal of a clipping from the 
Sentind had first shaken the depths of her security. 

As she opened the paper, her eyes, shrinking from 

the glaring headlines, "Widow of Boyne's Victim 

Forced to Appeal for Aid," ran down the column of 

text to two portraits inserted in it. The first was her 

husband's, taken from a photograph made the year they 

had come to England. It was the picture of him that 

she liked best, the one that stood on the writing-table 

up-stairs in her bedroom. As the eyes in the photograph 

met hers, she felt it would be impossible to read what 

was said of him, and closed her lids with the sharpness 

of the pain. 

[ 368 ] 



AFTERWARD 

''I thought if you felt disposed to put your name 
down " she heard Parvis continue. 

She opened her eyes with an effort, and they fell 
on the other portrait. It was that of a youngish man, 
slightly built, with features somewhat blurred by the 
shadow of a projecting hat-brim. Where had she seen 
that outline before? She stared at it confusedly, 
her heart hammering in her ears. Then she gave a 
ciy. 

*'This is the man — ^the man who came for my hus^ 
band!" 

She heard Parvis start to his feet, and was dimly 
aware that she had slipped backward into the comer 
of the sofa, and that he was bending above her in alarm. 
She straightened herself, and reached out for the paper, 
which she had dropped. 

"It's the man! I should know him anywhere!" she 
persisted in a voice that sounded to her ovm ears like 
a scream. 

Parvis's answer seemed to come to her from far off, 
down endless fog-muffled windings. 

''Mrs. Boyne, you're not very well. Shall I call some- 
body ? Shall I get a glass of water ?" 

"No, no, no!" She threw herself toward him, her 
hand frantically clutching the newspaper. ''I tell you, 
it's the man! I know him! He spoke to me in the garden!" 

Parvis took the journal from her, directing his glasses 

[ 369 ] 



AFTERWARD 

to the portrait. "It can't be, Mrs. Boyne. It*s Robert 
Elwell." 

"Robert Elwell?" Her white stare seemed to travel 
into space. "Then it was Robert Elwell who came for 
him.*' 

"Came for Boyne? The day he went away from 
here" Parvis's voice dropped as heis rose. He bent 
over, laying a fraternal hand on her, as if to coax her 
gently back into her seat. "Why, Elwell was dead! 
Don't you 'remember ? " 

Mary sat with her eyes fixed on the picture, uncon- 
scious of what he was saying. 

"Don't you remember Boyne's unfinished letter to 
me — ^the one you found on his desk that day? It was 
written just after he'd heard of Elwell's death." She 
noticed an odd shake in Parvis's unemotional voice. 
"Surely you remember!" he urged her. 

Yes, she remembered: that was the profoundest 
horror of it. Elwell had died the day before her hus- 
band's disappearance; and this was Elwell's portrait; 
and it was the portrait of the man who had spoken to 
her in the garden. She lifted her head and looked slowly 
about the library. The library could have borne wit- 
ness that it was also the portrait of the man who had 
come in that day to call Boyne from his unfinished 
letter. Through the misty surgings of her brain she 
heard the faint boom of half-forgotten words — ^words 

[ 370 ] 



AFTERWARD 

spoken by Alida Stair on the lawn at Pangboume be- 
fore Boyne and his wife had ever seen the house at 
Lyng, or had imagined that they might one day live 
there. 

''This was the man who spoke to me/' she repeated. 

She looked again at Parvis. He was trying to conceal 
his disturbance under what he probably ima^ned to 
be an expression of indulgent commiseration; but the 
edges of his lips were blue. "He thinks me mad; but 
I'm not mad/' she reflected; and suddenly there flashed 
upon her a way of justifying her strange affirmation. 

She sat quiet» controlling the quiver of her lips, and 
waiting till she could trust her voice; then she said, 
looking straight at Parvis: ''Will you answer me one 
questipn, please? When was it that Robert Elwell 
tried to kiU himself?" 

"When — ^when?" Parvis stammered. 

"Yes; the date. Please try to remember." 

She saw that he was growing still more afraid of 
her. "I have a reason/' she insisted. 

"Yes» yes. Only I can't remember. About two 
months before, I should say." 

"I want the date/' she repeated. 

Parvis picked up the newspaper. "We might see 
here/' he said, still humouring her. He ran his eyes 
down the page. "Here it is. Last October — the " 

She caught the words from him. "The 20th, wasn't 

[S71 ] 



AFTERWARD 

it?" With a sharp look at her, he verified. *'Yes, the 
«Oth. Then you did know?" 

''I know now." Her gaze continued to travel past 
him. ''Sunday, the 20th — ^that was the day he came 
first." 

Parvis's voice was almost inaudible. ''Came here 
first?" 

"Yes." 

"You saw him twice, then?" 

"Yes, twice." She just breathed it at him. "He 
came first on the 20th of October. I remember the 
date because it was the day we went up Meldon Steep 
for the first time.*' She felt a faint gasp of inward 
laughter at the thought that but for that she might have 
forgotten. 

Parvis continued to scrutinise her, as if trying to 
intercept her gaze. 

"We saw him from the roof," she went on. "He came 
down the lime-avenue toward the house. He was dressed 
just as he is in that picture. My husband saw him first. 
He was frightened, and ran down ahead of me; but 
there was no one there. He had vanished." 

"Elwell had vanished?" Parvis faltered. 

"Yes." Their two whispers seemed to grope for each 
other. "I couldn't think what had happened. I see now. 
He tried to come then; but he wasn't dead enough — 
he couldn't reach us. He had to wait for two months 

[ 372 ] 



AFTERWARD 

to die; and then he came back again — ^and Ned went 
with him." 

She nodded at Parvis with the look of triumph of a 
child who has worked out a difficult puzzle. But sud- 
denly she lifted her hands with a desperate gesture, 
pressing them to her temples. 

"Oh, my God! I sent him to Ned — I told him where 
to go! I sent him to this room!" she screamed. 

She felt the walk of books rush toward her, like 
inward falling ruins; and she heard Parvis, a long way 
off, through the ruins, crying to her, and struggling 
to get at her. But she was numb to his touch, she did 
not know what he was saying. Through the tumult 
she heard but one clear note, the voice of Alida Stair, 
speaking on the lawn at Pangboume. 

"You won't know till afterward," it said. "You 
won't know tQl long, long afterward." 



[8781 



THE LETTERS 



THE LETTERS 



T TP the hill from the station at St.-Cloud, Lizzie 
\^ West climbed in the cold spring sunshine. As 
she breasted the incline, she noticed the first waves 
of wistaria over courtyard railings and the high lights 
of new foliage against the walls of ivy-matted gardens; 
and she thought again, as she had thought a hundred 
times before, that she had never seen so beautiful a 
spring. 

She was on her way to the Deerings' house, in a street 
near the hilltop; and eveiy step was dear and familiar 
to her. She went there five times a week to teach little 
Juliet Deering, the daughter of Mr. Vincent Deering, 
the distinguished American artist. Juliet had been her 
pupU for two years, and day after day, during that 
time, Lizzie West had mounted the hill in all weathers; 
sometimes with her umbrella bent against the rain, 
sometimes with her frail cotton parasol unfurled be- 
neath a fieiy sun, sometimes with the snow soaking 
through her boots or a bitter wind piercing her thin 
jacket, sometimes with the dust whirling about her and 

[ ^77 ] 



THE LETTERS 

bleaching the flowers of the poor little hat that had to 
** carry her through" till next summer. 

At first the ascent had seemed tedious enough, as 
dull as the trudge to her other lessons. Lizzie was not a 
heaven-sent teacher; she had no bom zeal for her call- 
ing, and though she dealt kindly and dutifully with her 
pupils, she did not fly to them on winged feet. But one 
day something had happened to change the face of 
life, and since then the climb to the Deering house 
had seemed like a dream-flight up a heavenly stair- 
way. 

Her heart beat faster as she remembered it — ^no 
longer in a tumult of fright and self-reproach, but 
softly, happily, as if brooding over a possession that 
none could take from her. 

It was on a day of the previous October that she had 
stopped, after Juliet's lesson, to ask if she might speak 
to Juliet's papa. One had always to apply to Mr. 
Deering if there was anything to be said about the 
lessons. Mrs. Deering lay on her lounge up-stairs, 
reading relays of dog-eared novels, the choice of which 
she left to the cook and the nurse, who were always 
fetching them for her from the cabinet de lecture; and 
it was understood in the house that she was not to be 
"bothered" about Juliet. Mr. Deering's interest in his 
daughter was fitful rather than consecutive; but at 
least he was approachable, and listened sympatheti- 

[ 378 ] 



THE LETTERS 

calljr, if a little absently, stroking his long fair mous- 
tache» while Lizzie stated her difficulty or put in her 
plea for maps or copy-books. 

"Yes, yes — of course — whatever you think right," he 
would always assent, sometimes drawing a five-franc 
piece from his pocket, and laying it carelessly on the 
table, or oftener saying, with his charming smile: 
"Get what you please, and just put it on your account, 
you know." 

But this time Lizzie had not come to ask for maps 
or copy-books, or even to hint, in crimson misery — ^as 
once, poor soul! she had had to do — ^that Mr. Deering 
had overlooked her last little account — ^had probably 
not noticed that she had left it, some two months 
earlier, on a comer of his littered writing-table. That 
hour had been bad enough, though he had done his 
best to cany it oflF gallantly and gaily; but this was in- 
finitely worse. For she had come to complain of her 
pupil; to say that, much as she loved little Juliet, it was 
useless, unless Mr. Deering could "do something," to 
go on with the lessons. 

"It wouldn't be honest — ^I should be robbing you; 
I'm not sure that I haven't already," she half laughed, 
through mounting tears, as she put her case. Little 
Juliet would not work, would not obey. Her poor 
little drifting existence floated aimlessly between the 
kitchen and the lingerie^ and all the groping tendrils 

[879] 



THE LETTERS 

of her curiosity were fastened about the life of the 
backstairs. 

It was the same kind of curiosity that Mrs. Deering» 
overhead in her drug-scented room» lavished on her 
dog-eared novels and on the "" society notes" of the 
morning paper; but since Juliet's horizon was not yet 
wide enough to embrace these loftier objects, her inter- 
est was centred in the anecdotes that Celeste and Su- 
zanne brought back from the market and the library. 
That these were not always of an edifying nature the 
child's artless prattle too often betrayed; but unhap- 
pily they occupied her fancy to the complete exclusion 
of such nourishing items as dates and dynasties, and 
the sources of the principal European rivers. 

At length the crisis became so acute that poor Lizzie 
felt herself bound to resign her charge or ask Mr. 
Deering's intervention; and for Juliet's sake she chose 
the harder alternative. It was hard to speak to him not 
only because one hated to confess one's failure, and 
hated still more to ascribe it to such vulgar causes, but 
because one blushed to bring them to the notice of a 
spirit engaged with higher things. Mr. Deering was 
very busy at that moment: he had a new picture "on." 
And Lizzie entered the studio with the flutter of one 
profanely intruding on some sacred rite; she almost 
heard the rustle of retreating wings as she ap- 
proached. 

[ 380 ] 



THE LETTERS 

And then — ^and then — ^how differently it had all 
turned out! Perhaps it wouldn't have, if she hadn't 
been such a goose — ^she who so seldom cried, so prided 
herself on a stoic control of her little twittering cageful 
of ''feelings." But if she had cried, it was because he 
had looked at her so kindly, and because she had never- 
theless felt him so pained and shamed by what she 
said. The pain, of course, lay for both in the implica- 
tion behind her words— in the one word she left un- 
spoken. If little Juliet was as she was, it was because 
of the mother up-stairs — ^the mother who had given 
the child her frivolous impulses, and grudged her the 
care that might have corrected them. The case so 
obviously revolved in its own vicious circle that when 
Mr. Deering had murmured, ''Of course if my wife 
were not an invalid," they both turned with a spring 
to the flagrant "bad example" of Celeste and Suzanne, 
fastening on that with a mutual insistence that ended 
in his crying out: "All the more, then, how can you 
leave her to them?" 

"But if I do her no good?" Lizzie wailed; and it 
was then that, when he took her hand and assured 
her gently, "But you do, you do!" — it was then that, 
in the traditional phrase, she "broke down," and her 
poor little protest quivered off into tears. 

"You do me good, at any rate — ^you make the house 

seem less like a desert," she heard him say; and the 

[881] 



THE LETTERS 

next moment she felt herself drawn to him, and they 
kissed each other through her weeping. 

They kissed each other — there was the new fact. 
One does not, if one is a poor little teacher Hying in 
Mme. Clopin's Pension Suisse at Passy, and if one has 
pretty brown hair and eyes that reach out trustfully 
to other eyes — one does not, under these common but 
defenceless conditions, arrive at the age of twenty-five 
without being now and then kissed — ^waylaid once by 
a noisy student between two doors, surprised once by 
one's grey-bearded professor as one bent over the 
"theme** he was correcting — ^but these episodes, if 
they tarnish the surface, do not reach the heart: it is 
not the kiss endured, but the kiss returned, that lives. 
And Lizzie West's first kiss was for Vincent Deering. 

As she drew back from it, something new awoke in 
her — something deeper than the fright and the shame, 
and the penitent thought of Mrs. Deering. A sleeping 
germ of life thrilled and unfolded, and started out to 
seek the sun. 

She might have felt diflTerently, perhaps — the shame 
and penitence might have prevailed — had she not 
known him so kind and tender, and guessed him so 
baffled, poor and disappointed. She knew the failure 
of his married life, and she divined a corresponding 
failure in his artistic career. Lizzie, who had made her 
own faltering snatch at the same laurels, brought her 

[ 382 ] 



THE LETTERS 

thwarted proficiency to bear on the question of his 
pictures, which she judged to be remarkable, but 
suspected of having somehow failed to affirm their 
merit publicly. She understood that he had tasted an 
earlier moment of success: a mention^ a medal, some- 
thing official and tangible; then the tide of publicity 
had somehow set the other way, and left him stranded 
in a noble isolation. It was incredible that any one 
so naturally eminent and exceptional should have been 
subject to the same vulgar necessities that governed her 
own life, should have known poverty and obscurity and 
indifference. But she gathered that this had been the 
case, and felt that it formed the miraculous link 
between them. For through what medium less reveal- 
ing than that of shared misfortune would he ever have 
perceived so inconspicuous an object as herself? And 
she recalled now how gently his eyes had rested on her 
from the first — ^the grey eyes that might have seemed 
mocking if they had not seemed so gentle. 

She remembered how kindly he had met her the first 
day, when Mrs. Deering*s inevitable headache had pre- 
vented her receiving the new teacher. Insensibly he 
had led Lizzie to talk of herself and his questions had 
at once revealed his interest in the little stranded com- 
patriot doomed to earn a precarious living so far from 
her native shore. Sweet as the moment of unburden- 
ing had been, she wondered afterward what had de- 

[ 38S ] 



THE LETTERS 

termined it: how 8he» so shy and sequestered, had 
found herself letting slip her whole poverty-strickai 
story» even to the avowal of the ineffectual *' artistic" 
tendencies that had drawn her to Paris, and had thea 
left her there to the dry task of tuition. She wonfJered 
at first, but she understood now; she understood every- 
thing after he had kissed her. It was simply because he 
was as kind as he was great. 

She thought of this now as she mounted the hill in 
the spring sunshine, and she thought of all that had 
happened since. The intervening months, as she looked 
back at them, were merged in a vast golden haze» 
through which here and there rose the outline of a 
shining island. The haze was the general enveloping 
sense of his love, and the shining islands were the days 
they had spent together. They had never kissed again 
under his own roof. Lizzie's professional honour had 
a keen edge, but she had been spared the necessity of 
making him feel it. It was of the essence of her fatality 
that he always ''understood'* when his failing to do so 
might have imperilled his hold on her. 

But her Thursdays and Sundays were free, and it 
soon became a habit to give them to him. She knew, 
for her peace of mind, only too much about pictures, 
and galleries and churches had been the one outlet 
from the greyness of her personal conditions. For 
poetry, too, and the other imaginative forms of litera- 

[884] 



THE LETTERS 

tuie, she had always felt more than she had hitherto 
had occasion to betray; and now all these folded sympa- 
thies shot out their tendrils to the light. Mr. Deering 
knew how to express with unmatched clearness the 
thoughts that trembled in her mind: to talk with him 
was to soar up into the azure on the outspread wings 
of his intelligence, and look down, dizzily yet clearly, 
on all the wonders and glories of the world. She was 
a little ashamed, sometimes, to find how few definite 
impressions she brought back from these flights; but 
that was doubtless because her heart beat so fast 
when he was near, and his smUe made his words seem 
like a long quiver of light. Afterward, in quieter hours, 
fragments of their talk emerged in her memory with 
wondrous precision, every syllable as minutely chiselled 
as some of the delicate objects in crystal or ivory that 
he pointed out in the museums they frequented. It was 
always a puzzle to Lizzie that some of their hours 
should be so blurred and others so vivid. 

She was reliving all these memories with unusual 
distinctness, because it was a fortnight since she had 
seen her friend. Mrs. Deering, some six weeks previ* 
ously, had gone to visit a relative at St.-Raphael; and, 
after she had been a month absent, her husband and 
the little girl had joined her. Lizzie's adieux to Deer- 
ing had been made on a rainy afternoon in the damp 

corridors of the Aquarium at the Trocadero. She could 

[ 385 ] 



THE LETTERS 

not receive him at her own pennon. That a teacher 
should be visited by the father of a pupil, especially 
when that father was still, as Madame Clopin said, 
si bien^ was against that lady's austere Helvetian code. 
And from Deering's first tentative hint of another solu- 
tion Lizzie had recoiled in a wild flurry of all her 
scruples. He took her ''No, no, nol'* as he took all 
her twists and turns of conscience, with eyes half- 
tender and half-mocking, and an instant acquiescence 
which was the finest homage to the ''lady'* she felt 
he divined and honoured in her. 

So they continued to meet in museums and galleries, 
or to extend, on fine days, their explorations to the 
suburbs, where now and then, in the solitude of grove 
or garden, the kiss renewed itself, fleeting, isolated, or 
prolonged in a shy pressure of the hand. But on the 
day of his leave-taking the rain kept them under cover; 
and as they threaded the subterranean windings of the 
Aquarium, and Lizzie gazed unseeingly at the grotesque 
faces glaring at her through walls of glass, she felt like 
a drowned wretch at the bottom of the sea, with all her 
sunlit memories rolling over her like the waves of its 
surface. 

"You'll never see him again — never see him again,** 

the waves boomed in her ears through his last words; 

and when she had said good-bye to him at the comer, 

and had scrambled, wet and shivering, into the Passy 

[ 386 ] 



THE LETTERS 

omnibus, its grinding wheels took up the derisive bujy 
den — "Never see him, never see him again/' 

All that was only two weeks ago, and here she was, 
as happy as a lark, mounting the hill to his door in the 
fresh spring sunshine! So weak a heart did not deserve 
such a radiant fate; and Lizzie said to herself that she 
would never again distrust her star. 



II 

The cracked bell tinkled sweetly through her heart as 

she stood listening for Juliet's feet. Juliet, anticipating 

the laggard Suzanne, almost always opened the door for 

her governess, not from any eagerness to hasten the 

hour of her studies, but from the irrepressible desire 

to see what was going on in the street. But doubtless 

on this occasion some unusually absorbing incident had 

detained the child below-stairs; for Lizzie, after vainly 

waiting for a step, had to give the bell a second twitch. 

Even a third produced no response, and Lizzie, full 

of dawning fears, drew back to look up at the house. 

She saw that the studio shutters stood wide, and then 

noticed, without surprise, that Mrs. Deering's were 

still unopened. No doubt Mrs. Deering was resting 

after the fatigue of the journey. Instinctively Lizzie's 

eyes turned again to the studio window; and as she 

looked, she saw Deering approach it. He caught sight 

[ 387 ] 



THE LETTERS 

of her» and an instant later was at the door. He looked 
paler than usual, and she noticed that he wore a black 
coat. 

"I rang and rang— where is Juliet?" she asked. 

He looked at her gravely; then, without answering, 
he led her down the passage to the studio, and closed 
the door when she had entered. 

"My wife is dead — ^she died suddenly ten days ago. 
Didn't you see it in the papers?" he said. 

Lizzie, with a cry, sank down on the rickety divan 
propped against the wall. She seldom saw a news- 
paper, since she could not afford one for her own pe- 
rusal, and those supplied to the Pension Clopin were 
usually in the hands of its more privileged lodgers till 
long after the hour when she set out on her morning 
round. 

"No; I didn't see it," she stammered. 

Deering was silent. He stood twisting an unlit cigar- 
ette in his hand, and looking down at her with a gaze 
that was both constrained and hesitating. 

She, too, felt the constraint of the situation, the im- 
possibility of finding words which, after what had passed 
between them, should seem neither false nor heartless; 
and at last she exclaimed, standing up: "Poor little 
Juliet! Can't I go to her?" 

"Juliet is not here. I left her at* St.-RaphaSl with 
the relations with whom my wife was staying." 

[ 388 ] 



THE LETTERS 

"Oh/* Lizzie murmured, feeling vaguely that this 
added to the diflSculty of the moment. How differently 
she had pictured their meeting! 

"Fm so — so sorry for her!** she faltered. 

Deering made no reply, but, turning on his heel, 
walked the length of the studio and halted before the 
picture on the easel. It was the landscape he had 
b^;un the previous autumn, with the intention of send- 
ing it to the Salon that spring. But it was still unfin- 
ished — seemed, indeed, hardly more advanced than 
on the fateful October day when Lizzie, standing 
before it for the first time, had confessed her inability 
to deal with Juliet. Perhaps the same thought struck 
its creator, for he broke into a dry laugh and turned 
from the easel with a shrug. 

Under his protracted silence Lizzie roused herself 
to the fact that, since her pupil was absent, there was 
no reason for her remaining any longer; and as Deer- 
ing approached her she rose and said with an effort: 
''1*11 go, then. You*ll send for me when she comes 
back?** 

Deering still hesitated, tormenting the cigarette be- 
tween his fingers. 

''She*s not coming back — ^not at present.** 

Lizzie heard him with a drop of the heart. Was 
eveiything to be changed in their lives? Of course; 
how could she have dreamed it would be otherwise? 

[ 389 ] 



THE LETTERS 

She could only stupidly repeat: "Not cozning back? 
Not this spring?'* 

"Probably not, since our friends are so good as to 
keep her. The fact is, I've got to go to America. My 
wife left a little property, a few pennies, that I must 
go and see to — for the child." 

Lizzie stood before him, a cold knife in her 
breast. "I see — I see," she reiterated, feeling all the 
while that she strained her eyes into utter black- 



ness. 



It's a nuisance, having to pull up stakes," he went 
on, with a fretful glance about the studio. 

She lifted her eyes to his face. "Shall you be gone 
long?" she took courage to ask. 

"There again — I can't tell. It's all so mixed up." 
He met her look for an incredibly long strange moment. 
"I hate to go!" he murmured abruptly. 

Lizzie felt a rush of moisture to her lashes, and the 
familiar wave of weakness at her heart. She raised her 
hand to her face with an instinctive gesture, and as 
she did so he held out his arms. 

"Come here, Lizzie!" he said. 

And she went — ^went with a sweet wild throb of 
liberation, with the sense that at last the house was his, 
that aha was his, if he wanted her; that never again 
would that silent presence in the room above constrain 
and shame her rapture. 

[ S90 ] 



THE LETTERS 

He pushed back her veil and covered her face with 
kisses. *' Don't ciy, you little goose!'' he said. 



m 

That they must see each other before his departure, 
in some place less exposed than their usual haunts, was 
as clear to Lizzie as it appeared to be to Deering. His 
expressing the wish seemed, indeed, the sweetest testi- 
mony to the quality of his feeling, since, in the first 
weeks of the most perfunctory widowerhood, a man of 
his stamp is presumed to abstain from light adventures. 
If, then, he wished so much to be quietly and gravely 
with her, it could be only for reasons she did not call by 
name, but of which she felt the sacred tremor in her 
heart; and it would have seemed to her vain and vulgar 
to put forward, at such a moment, the conventional 
objections with which such little exposed existences 
defend the treasure of their freshness. 

In such a mood as this one may descend from the 
Passy omnibus at the comer of the Pont de la Con- 
corde (she had not let him fetch her in a cab) with a 
sense of dedication almost solemn, and may advance 
to meet one's fate, in the shape of a gentleman of 
melancholy elegance, with an auto-taxi at his call, as 
one has advanced to the altar-steps in some girlish 

bridal vision. 

[391 ] 



THE LETTERS 

Even the experienced waiter ushering them into an 
upper room of the quiet restaurant on the Seine could 
hardly have supposed their quest for privacy to be 
based on the familiar motive, so soberly did Deering 
give his orders, while his companion sat small and 
grave at his side. She did not, indeed, mean to let her 
distress obscure their hour together: she was already 
learning that Deering shrank from sadness. He should 
see that she had courage and gaiety to face their com- 
ing separation, and yet give herself meanwhile to this 
completer nearness; but she waited, as always, for him 
to strike the opening note. 

Looking back at it later, she wondered at the sweet- 
ness of the hour. Her heart was unversed in happiness, 
but he had found the tone to lull her fears, and make 
her trust her fate for any golden wonder. Deepest of 
all, he gave her the sense of something tacit and estab- 
lished between them, as if his tenderness were a habit 
of the heart hardly needing the support of outward 
proof. 

Such proof as he offered came, therefore, as a kind 
of crowning luxury, the flowering of a profoundly rooted 
sentiment; and here again the instinctive reserves and 
defences would have seemed to vulgarise what his con- 
fidence ennobled. But if all the tender casuistries of her 
heart were at his service, he took no grave advantage of 
them. Even when they sat alone after dinner, with the 

[ 392 ] 



THE LETTERS 

lights of the river trembling through their one low 
window, and the rumour of Paris enclosing them in & 
heart of silence, he seemed, as much as herself, under 
the spell of hallowing influences. She felt it most of alt 
as she yielded to the arm he presently put about her,, 
to the long caress he laid on her lips and eyes: not a 
word or gesture missed the note of quiet understanding, 
or cast a doubt; in retrospect, on the pact they sealed 
with their last look. 

That pact, as she reviewed it through a sleepless 
night, seemed to have consisted mainly, on his part, 
in pleadings for full and frequent news of her, on hers 
in the promise that it should be given as often as he 
wrote to ask it. She did not wish to show too much 
eagerness, too great a desire to affirm and define her 
hold on him. Her life had given her a certain acquaint- 
ance with the arts of defence: girls in her situation 
were supposed to know them all, and to use them as 
occasion called. But Lizzie's very need of them had 
intensified her disdain. Just because she was so poor, 
and had always, materially, so to count her change and 
calculate her margin, she would at least know the joy 
of emotional prodigality, and give her heart as reck- 
lessly as the rich their millions. She was sure now that 
Deering loved her, and if he had seized the occasion 
of their farewell to give her some definitely worded sign 
of his feeling — if, more plainly, he had asked her to 

[ 39S ] 



THE LETTERS 

many him — ^his doing so would have seemed less a 
proof of his sincerity than of his suspecting in her the 
need of such a warrant. That he had abstained seemed 
to show that he trusted her as she trusted him, and that 
they were one most of all in this complete security of 
understanding. 

She had tried to make him guess aU this in the 
chariness of her promise to write. She would write; 
of course she would. But he would be busy, preoccu- 
pied, on the move: it was for him to let her know when 
he wished a word, to spare her the embarrassment of 
ill-timed intrusions. 

''Intrusions?'* He had smiled the word away. "You 
can't well intrude, my darling, on a heart where you're 
already established to the complete exclusion of other 
lodgers." And then, taking her hands, and looking up 
from them into her happy dizzy eyes: ''You don't 
know much about being in love, do you, Lizzie?" he 
laughingly ended. 

It seemed easy enough to reject this imputation in a 
kiss; but she wondered afterward if she had not de- 
served it. Was she really cold and conventional, and 
did other women give more richly and recklessly ? She 
found that it was possible to turn about every one of 
her reserves and delicacies so that they looked like sel- 
fish scruples and petty pruderies, and at this game she 
came in time to exhaust all the resources of casuistry. 

[ 3^4 ] 



THE LETTERS 

Meanwhile the first days after Deering's departure 
wore a soft refracted light like the radiance lingering 
after sunset. He^ at any rate, was taxable with no 
reserves, no calculations, and his letters of farewell, 
from train and steamer, filled her with long murmurs 
and echoes of his presence. How he loved her, how he 
loved her — and how he knew how to tell her so! 

She was not sure of possessing the same gift. 
Unused to the expression of personal emotion, she 
wavered between the impulse to pour out all she felt 
and the fear lest her extravagance should amuse or 
even bore him. She never lost the sense that what was 
to her the central crisis of experience must be a mere 
episode in a life so predestined as his to romantic inci- 
dents. All that she felt and said would be subjected to 
the test of comparison with what others had already 
given him: from all quarters of the globe she saw pas- 
sionate missives winging their way toward Deering, for 
whom her poor little swallow-flight of devotion could 
certainly not make a summer. But such moments were 
succeeded by others in which she raised her head and 
dared affirm her conviction that no woman had ever 
loved him just as she had, and that none, therefore, 
had probably found just such things to say to him. 
And this conviction strengthened the other less solidly 
based belief that hs also, for the same reason, had 
found new accents to express his tenderness, and that 

[ 395 ] 



THE LETTERS 

the three letters she wore all day in her shabby blouse, 
and hid all night beneath her pillow, not only surpassed 
in beauty, but differed in quality from, all he had ever 
penned for other eyes. 

They gave her, at any rate, during the weeks that she 
wore them on her heart, sensations more complex and 
delicate than Deering's actual presence had ever pro- 
duced. To be with him was always like breasting a 
bright rough sea that blinded whQe it buoyed her; but 
his letters formed a still pool of contemplation, above 
which she could bend, and see the reflection of the sky, 
and the myriad movements of the life that flitted and 
gleamed below the surface. The wealth of this hidden 
life — ^that was what most surprised her! She had had 
no inkling of it, but had kept on along the narrow 
track of habit, like a traveller climbing a road in a fog, 
and suddenly finding hunself on a sunlit crag between 
leagues of sky and dizzy depths of valley. And the 
odd thing was that all the people about her — ^the whole 
world of the Passy pension — ^seemed plodding along 
the same dull path, preoccupied with the pebbles un- 
der foot, and unaware of the glory beyond the fog! 

There were hours of exultation, when she longed to 
cry out to them what one saw from the sunmiit — and 
hours of abasement, when she asked herself why her 
feet had been guided there, whUe others, no doubt as 
worthy, stumbled and blundered in obscurity. She felt, 

[ 396 ] 



THE LETTERS 

in particular, an urgent pity for the two or three other 
girls at Mme. Clopin's — girls older, duller, less alive 
than she, and by that very token more thrown upon 
her sympathy. Would they ever know ? Had they ever 
known ? — ^those were the questions that haunted her as 
she crossed her companions on the stairs, faced them 
at the dinner-table, and listened to their poor pining 
talk in the dimly-lit slippery-seated salon. One of the 
girls was Swiss, another English; a third, Andora 
Macy, was a young lady from the Southern States who 
was studying French with the ultimate object of im- 
parting it to the inmates of a girls' school at Macon, 
Georgia. 

Andora Macy was pale, faded, immature. She had a 
drooping accent, and a manner which fluctuated be- 
tween arch audacity and fits of panicky hauteur. She 
yearned to be admired, and feared to be insulted; and 
yet seemed wistfully conscious that she was destined to 
miss both these extremes of sensation, or to enjoy them 
only in the experiences of her more privileged friends. 

It was perhaps for this reason that she took a tender 
interest in Lizzie, who had shrunk from her at first, 
as the depressing image of her own probable future, 
but to whom she now suddenly became an object of 
sentimental pity. 



[897] 



THE LETTERS 

IV 

Miss Mact*s room was next to Miss West's, and the 
Southerner's knock often appealed to Lizzie's hospi- 
tality when Mme. Clopin's early curfew had driven 
her boarders from the sdUm. It sounded thus one 
evening, just as Lizzie, tired from an unusually long 
day of tuition, was in the act of removing her dress. 
She was in too indulgent a mood to withhold her '*Come 
in," and as Miss Macy crossed the threshold, Lizzie 
felt that Vincent Deering's first letter — ^the letter from 
the train — ^had slipped from her bosom to the floor. 

Miss Macy, as promptly aware, darted forward to 
recover it. Lizzie stooped also, instinctively jealous of 
her touch; but the visitor reached the letter first, and 
as she seized it, Lizzie knew that she had seen whence 
it fell, and was weaving round the incident a rapid web 
of romance. 

Lizzie blushed with annoyance. '^It's too stupid, 
having no pockets! If one gets a letter as one is going 
out in the morning, one has to carry it in one's blouse 
all day." 

Miss Macy looked at her fondly. ''It's warm £rom 
your heart!" she breathed, reluctantly yielding up the 
missive. 

Lizzie laughed, for she knew it was the letter that 
had warmed her heart. Poor Andora Macy! She would 

[ 398 ] 



THE LETTERS 

never know. Her bleak bosom would never take fire 
from such a contact. Lizzie looked at her with kind 
ejeSf chafing at the injustice of fate. 

The next evening, on her return home, she found 
her friend hovering in the entrance hall. 

"I thought you*d like me to put this in your own 
hand/' Andora whispered significantly, pressing a letter 
upon Lizzie. ''I couldn't bear to see it lying on the table 
with the others." 

It was Deering*s letter from the steamer. Lizzie 
blushed to the forehead, but without resenting An- 
dora's divination. She could not have breathed a word 
of her bliss, but she was not sorry to have it guessed, 
and pity for Andora's destitution yielded to the 
pleasure of using it as a mirror for her own abundance. 

Deering wrote again on reaching New York, a long 
fond dissatisfied letter, vague in its indication to his 
own projects, specific in the expression of his love. 
Lizzie brooded over eveiy syllable till they formed the 
undercurrent of all her waking thoughts, and murmured 
through her midnight dreams; but she would have been 
happier if they had shed some definite light on the 
future. 

That would come, no doubt, when he had had time 
to look about and get his bearings. She counted up 
the days that must elapse before she received his next 

[ 899 ] 



THE LETTERS 

letter, and stole down early to peep at the papers, and 
learn when the next American mail was due. At length 
the happy date arrived, and she hurried distractedly 
through the day's work, trying to conceal her impa- 
tience by the endearments she bestowed upon her 
pupils. It was easier, in her present mood, to kiss them 
than to keep them at their granunars. 

That evening, on Mme. Clopin's threshold, her heart 
beat so wildly that she had to lean a moment against 
the door-post before entering. But on the hall table, 
where the letters lay, there was none for her. 

She went over them with an impatient hand, her heart 
dropping down and down, as she had sometimes fallen 
down an endless stairway in a dream — ^the very same 
stairway up which she had seemed to fly when she 
climbed the long hill to Deering's door. Then it struck 
her that Andora might have found and secreted her 
letter, and with a spring she was on the actual stairs, 
and rattling Miss Macy's door-handle. 

"YouVe a letter for me, haven't you?" she panted. 

Miss Macy enclosed her in attenuated arms. "Oh, 
darling, did you expect another?" 

"Do give it to me!" Lizzie pleaded with eager eyes. 

"But I haven't any! There hasn't been a sign of a 
letter for you." 

"I know there is. There miut be," Lizzie cried, 

stamping her foot. 

[ 400 ] 



THE LETTERS 

'*But, dearesty I've watched for you, and there's been 
nothing." 

Day after day» for the ensuing weeks, the same scene 
re-enacted itself with endless variations. Lizzie, after 
the first sharp spasm of disappointment, made no 
effort to conceal her anxiety from Miss Macy, and the 
fond Andora was chaiged to keep a vigilant eye upon 
the postman's coming, and to spy on the bonne for 
possible n^ligence or perfidy. But these elaborate pre- 
cautions remained fruitless, and no letter from Deering 
came. 

During the first fortnight of silence, Lizzie exhausted 
all the ingenuities of explanation. She marvelled after- 
ward at the reasons she had found for Deering's silence: 
there were moments when she almost aigued herself 
into thinking it more natural than his continuing to 
write. There was only one reason which her intelligence 
rejected; and that was the possibility that he had for- 
gotten her, that the whole episode had faded from his 
mind like a breath from a mirror. From that she res- 
olutely averted her thoughts, conscious that if she 
suffered herself to contemplate it, the motive power of 
life would fail, and she would no longer understand 
why she rose in the morning and lay down at night. 

If she had had leisure to indulge her anguish she 
might have been unable to keep such speculations at 
bay. But she had to be up and working: the blanchtS' 

[401] 



THE LETTERS 

seuse had to be paid, and Mme. Clopiii*s weekly bill, 
and all the little "extras" that even her frugal habits 
had to reckon with. And in the depths of her thought 
dwelt the dogging fear of illness and incapacity, goad- 
ing her to work while she could. She hardly remem- 
bered the time when she had been without that fear; 
it was second nature now, and it kept her on her feet 
when other incentives might have failed. In the blank- 
ness of her misery she felt no dread of death; but the 
horror of being ill and "dependent'' was in her blood. 

In the first weeks of silence she wrote again and 
again to Deering, entreating him for a word, for a 
mere sign of life. From the first she had shrunk from 
seeming to assert any claim on his future, yet in her 
bewilderment she now charged herself with having 
been too possessive, too exacting in her tone. She told 
herself that his fastidiousness shrank from any but 
a "light touch,'' and that hers had not been light 
enough. She should have, kept to the character of the 
"little friend," the artless consciousness in which tor- 
mented genius may find an escape from its complex- 
ities; and instead, she had dramatised their relation, 
exaggerated her own part in it, presumed, forsooth, to 
share the front of the stage with him, instead of being 
content to serve as sceneiy or chorus. 

But though, to herself, she admitted, and even in- 
sisted on, the episodical nature of the experience, on 

t40«] 



THE LETTERS 

the fact that for Deering it could be no more than an 
incident, she was still convinced that his sentiment for 
her, however fugitive, had been genuine. 

His had not been the attitude of the unscrupulous 
male seeking a vulgar "advantage." For a moment he 
had really needed her, and if he was silent now, it was 
perhaps because he feared that she had mistaken the 
nature of the need, and built vain hopes on its possible 
duration. 

It was of the essence of Lizzie's devotion that it 
sought, instinctively, the larger freedom of its object; 
she could not conceive of love under any form of 
exaction or compulsion. To make this clear to Deering 
became an overwhelming need, and in a last short let- 
ter she explicitly freed him from whatever sentimental 
obligation its predecessors might have seemed to im- 
pose. In this communication she playfully accused 
herself of having unwittingly sentimentalised their 
relation, affecting, in self-defence, a retrospective as- 
tuteness, a sense of the impermanence of the tenderer 
sentiments, that almost put Deering in the position of 
having mistaken coquetry for surrender. And she 
ended, gracefully, with a plea for the continuance of 
the friendly regard which she had ''always understood " 
to be the basis of their sympathy. The document, 
when completed, seemed to her worthy of what she 
conceived to be Deering's conception of a woman of 

(408 ] 



THE LETTERS 

the world — and she found a spectral satisfaction in the 
thought of making her final appearance before him in 
this distinguished character. But she was never des- 
tined to learn what effect the appearance produced; 
for the letter, like those it sought to excuse, remained 
unanswered. 



The fresh spring sunshine which had so often attended 
Lizzie West on her dusty climb up the hill of St.-Cloud» 
beamed on her, some two years later in a scene and a 
situation of altered import. 

Its rays, filtered through the horse-chestnuts of the 
Champs Elys^, shone on the gravelled circle about 
Laurent's restaurant; and Miss West, seated at a table 
within that privileged space, presented to the light a 
hat much better able to sustain its scrutiny than those 
which had shaded the brow of Juliet Deering's in- 
structress. 

Her dress was in keeping with the hat, and both 
belonged to a situation rife with such possibilities as the 
act of a leisurely luncheon at Laurent's in the opening 
week of the Salon. Her companions, of both sexes, con- 
firmed this impression by an appropriateness of attire 
and an ease of manner implying the laigest range of 
selection between the forms of Parisian idleness; and 

even Andora Macy, seated opposite, as in the place of 

[ 404 ] 



THE LETTERS 

GO-hostess or companion, reflected, in coy greys and 
mauves, the festal note of the occasion. 

This note reverberated persistently in the ears of a 
solitaiy gentleman straining for glimpses of the group 
from a table wedged in the remotest comer of the gar- 
den; but to Miss West herself the occurrence did not 
rise above the usual. For nearly a year she had been 
acquiring the habit of such situations, and the act of 
offering a luncheon at Laurent's to her cousins, the 
Harvey Mearses of Providence, and their friend Mr. 
Jackson Benn, produced in her no emotion beyond 
the languid glow which Mr. Benn*s presence was be- 
ginning to impart to such scenes. 

"It's frightful, the way youVe got used to it," An- 
dora Macy had wailed, in the first days of her friend's 
transfigured fortunes, when Lizzie West had waked one 
morning to find herself among the heirs of an ancient 
miserly cousin whose testamentary dispositions had 
formed, since her earliest childhood, the subject of pleas- 
antry and conjecture in her own improvident family. 
Old Hezron Mears had never given any sign of life 
to the luckless Wests; had perhaps hardly been con- 
scious of including them in the carefully drawn will 
which, following the old American convention, scrupu- 
lously divided his millions among his kin. It was by 
a mere genealogical accident that Lizzie, falling just 
within the golden circle, found herself possessed of a 

[ 405 ] 



THE LETTERS 

pittance sufficient to release her from the prospect of a 
long grey future in Mme. Clopin's pension. 

The release had seemed wonderful at first; jdt she 
presently found that it had destroyed her former world 
without giving her a new one. On the ruins of the old 
pension life bloomed the only flower that had ever 
sweetened her path; and beyond the sense of present 
ease, and the removal of anxiety for the future, her re- 
constructed existence blossomed with no compensating 
joys. She had hoped great things from the opportunity 
to rest, to travel, to look about her, above all, in vari- 
ous artful feminine ways, to be ''nice*' to the com- 
panions of her less privileged state; but such widenings 
of scope left her, as it were, but the more conscious of 
the empty margin of personal life beyond them. It 
was not till she woke to the leisure of her new days 
that she had the full sense of what was gone from them. 

Their very emptiness made her strain to pack them 
with transient sensations: she was like the possessor 
of an unfurnished house, with random furniture and 
bric-a-brac perpetually pouring in ''on approval." It 
was in this experimental character that Mr. Jackson 
Benn had fixed her attention, and the languid effort 
of her imagination to adjust him to her taste was 
seconded by the fond complicity of Andora, and by 
the smiling approval of her cousins. Lizzie did not 
discourage these attempts: she suffered serenely An- 

I 406 ] 



THE LETTERS 

dora's allusions to Mr. Benn's infatuation, and Mrs. 
Mears*s boasts of his business standing. All the better 
if they could drape his narrow square-shouldered frame 
and round unwinking countenance in the trailing mists 
of sentiment: Lizzie looked and listened, not unhope* 
ful of the miracle. 

*'I never saw anything like the way these French- 
men stare! Doesn't it make you nervous, Lizzie?'* 
Mrs. Mears broke out suddenly, ruffling her feather 
boa about an outraged bosom. Mrs. Mears was still 
in that stage of development when her country-women 
taste to the full the peril of being exposed to the gaze 
of the licentious Gaul. 

Lizzie roused herself from the contemplation of Mr. 
Benn's round baby cheeks and the square blue jaw 
resting on his perpendicular collar. ''Is some one star- 
ing at me?" she asked. 

"Don't turn round, whatever you do! There — just 
over there, between the rhododendrons — the tall blond 
man alone at that table. Really, Harvey, I think you 
ought to speak to the head waiter, or something; though 
I suppose in one of these places they'd only laugh at 
you," Mrs. Mears shudderingly concluded. 

Her husband, as if inclining to this probability, con- 
tinued the undisturbed dissection of his chicken wing, 
but Mr. Benn, perhaps conscious that his situation de- 
manded a more punctilious attitude, sternly revolved 

[407] 



THE LETTERS 

upon the parapet of his high collar in the direction of 
Mrs. Mears's glance. 

"What, that fellow all alone over there? Why, he*s 
not French; he*s an American/* he then proclaimed 
with a perceptible relaxing of the muscles. 

''Oh!" murmured Mrs. Mears, as peroq>tibly dis- 
appointed, and Mr. Benn continued: "He came over 
on the steamer with me. He's some kind of an artist 
— a fellow named Deering. He was staring at me^ I 
guess: wondering whether I was going to remember 
him. Why, how d* 'e do ? How are you ? Why, yes, of 
course; with pleasure — ^my friends, Mrs. Harvqr Meais 
— Mr. Mears; my friends. Miss Macy and Miss 
West." 

"I have the pleasure of knowing Miss West,'* said 
Vincent Deering with a smile. 

VI 

Even through hb smile Lizzie had seen, in the first 
moment, how changed he was; and the impression of 
the change deepened to the point of pain when, a few 
days later, in reply to his brief note, she granted him 
a private hour. 

That the first sight of his writing — the first answer 
to her letters — ^should have come, after three long 
years, in the shape of this impersonal line, too curt to 

[408] 



THE LETTERS 

be called humble, yet revealing a consciousness of 
the past in the studied avoidance of its language! As 
she read, her mind flashed back over what she had 
dreamed his letters would be, over the exquisite an- 
swers she had composed above his name. There was 
nothing exquisite in the lines before her; but dormant 
nerves began to throb again at the mere touch of the 
paper he had touched, and she threw the note into the 
fire before she dared to reply to it. 

Now that he was actually before her again, he be- 
came, as usual, the one live spot in her consciousness. 
Once more her tormented self sank back passive and 
numb, but now with all its power of suffering mysteri- 
ously transferred to the presence, so known yet so un- 
known, at the opposite comer of her hearth. She was 
still Lizzie West, and he was still Vincent Deering; but 
the Styx rolled between them, and she saw his face 
through its fog. It was his face, really, rather than his 
words, that told her, as she furtively studied it, the tale 
of failure and discouragement which had so blurred 
its handsome lines. She kept, afterward, no precise 
memory of the details of his narrative: the pain it evi- 
dently cost him to impart it was so much the sharpest 
fact in her new vision of him. Confusedly, however, she 
gathered that on reaching America he had found his 
wife's small property gravely impaired; and that, while 
lingering on to secure what remained of it, he had 

[ 409 ] 



THE LETTERS 

contrived to sell a picture or two, and had even known 
a moment of success, during which he received orders 
and set up a studio. Then the tide had ebbed, his work 
had remained on his hands, and a tedious illness, with 
its miserable sequel of debt, soon wiped out his advan- 
tage. There followed a period of eclipse, during which 
she inferred that he had tried his hand at divers means 
of livelihood, accepting employment from a fashiona- 
ble house-decorator, designing wall-papers, illustrating 
magazine articles, and acting for a time — she dimly 
understood — as the social tout of a new hotel desirous 
of advertising its restaurant. These disjointed facts 
were strung on a slender thread of personal allusions 
— references to friends who had been kind (jealously^ 
she guessed them to be women), and to enemies who 
had schemed against him. But, true to hb tradition of 
"correctness," he carefully avoided the mention of 
names, and left her imagination to grope dimly through 
a crowded world in which there seemed little room for 
her small shy presence. 

As she listened, her private grievance vanished 
beneath the sense of his unhappiness. Nothing he had 
said explained or excused his conduct to her; but he 
had suffered, he had been lonely, had been humiliated, 
and she felt, with a fierce maternal rage, that there 
was no possible justification for any scheme of things 
in which such facts were possible. She could not have 

[ *io ] 



THE LETTERS 

said why: she simply knew that it hurt too much to see 
him hurt. 

Gradually it came to her that her absence of resent- 
ment was due to her having so definitely settled her 
own future. She was glad she had decided — ^as she now 
felt she had — ^to marry Jackson Benn, if only for the 
sense of detachment it gave her in dealing with Vin- 
cent Deering. Her personal safety insured her the re- 
quisite impartiality, and justified her in lingering as 
long as she chose over the last lines of a chapter to 
which her own act had fixed the close. Any lingering 
hesitations as to the finality of this decbion were dis- 
pelled by the need of making it known to Deering; 
and when her visitor paused in his remimiscences to 
say, with a sigh, **But many things have happened to 
you too,** the words did not so much evoke the sense 
of her altered fortunes as the image of the suitor to 
whom she was about to entrust them. 

**Yes, many things; it's three years,*' she an- 
swered. 

Deering sat leaning forward, in his sad exiled ele- 
gance, his eyes gently bent on hers; and at his side she 
saw the form of Mr. Jackson Benn, with shoulders pre- 
tematurally squared by the cut of his tight black coat, 
and a tall shiny collar sustaining his baby cheeks and 
hard blue chin. Then the vision faded as Deering 

b^gan to speak. 

[411] 



THE LETTERS 



"Three years," he repeated musmgly. "Fve so often 
wondered what they'd brought you." 

She lifted her head with a blush, and the terrified 
wish that he should not — at the cost of all his notions 
of correctness — Elapse into the blunder of becoming 
"personal." 

"You've wondered ?" she smiled back bravely. 

"Do you suppose I haven't?" His look dwelt oo 
her. "Yes, I dare say that vxu what you thought of 



me. 



She had her answer pat — "Why, frankly, you know, 
I didn*t think of you at all." But the mounting tide of 
her memories swept it indignantly away. If it was his 
correctness to ignore, it could never be hers to disavow! 

**Wa8 that what you thought of me?" she heard 
him repeat in a tone of sad insistence; and at that, 
with a lift of her head, she resolutely answered: "How 
could I know what to think ? I had no word from you.** 

If she had expected, and perhaps almost hoped, that 
this answer would create a difficulty for him, the gaze 
of quiet fortitude with which he met it proved that she 
had underestimated his resources. 

"No, you had no word. I kept my vow," he said. 

"Your vow?" 

"That you shouldnH have a word — ^not a syllable. 
Oh, I kept it through everything!" 

Lizzie's heart was sounding in her ears the old 

[41«] 



THE LETTERS 

confused rumour of the sea of life, but through it she 
desperately tried to distinguish the still small voice of 
reason. 

"What was your vow? Why shouldn't I have had a 
syllable from you ?" 

He sat motionless, still holding her with a look so 
gentle that it almost seemed forgiving. 

Then, abruptly, he rose, and crossing the space be- 
tween them, sat down in a chair at her side. The 
movement might have implied a foigetfulness of 
changed conditions, and Lizzie, as if thus viewing it, 
drew slightly back; but he appeared not to notice her 
recoil, and his eyes, at last leaving her face, slowly and 
approvingly made the round of the small bright 
drawing-room. "This is charming. Yes, things Aave 
changed for you," he said. 

A moment before, she had prayed that he might be 
spared the error of a vain return upon the past. It was 
as if all her retrospective tenderness, dreading to see 
him at such a disadvantage, rose up to protect him 
from it. But his evasiveness exasperated her, and sud- 
denly she felt the desire to hold him fast, face to face 
with his own words. 

Before she could repeat her question, however, he 
had met her with another. 

"You did think of me, then ? Why are you afraid to 
tell me that you did ?'* 

[418] 



THE LETTERS 

The unexpectedness of the challenge wrung a ciy 
from her. "Didn't my letters tell you so enough?'* 

"Ah — ^your letters — " Keeping her gaze on his with 
unrelenting fixity, she could detect in him no con* 
fusion, not the least quiver of a nerve. He only gazed 
back at her more sadly. 

"They went everjrwhere with me — ^your letters/* he 
said. 

"Yet you never answered them." At last the accu- 
sation trembled to her lips. 

"Yet I never answered them.** 

"Did you ever so much as read them, I wonder?** 

All the demons of self-torture were up in her now, 
and she loosed them on him as if to escape from their 
rage. 

Deering hardly seemed to hear her question. He 
merely shifted his attitude, leaning a little nearer to 
her, but without attempting, by the least gesture, to 
remind her of the privileges which such nearness had 
once implied. 

"There were beautiful, wonderful things in them,** 
he said, smiling. 

She felt herself stiflFen under his smile. "You*ve 
waited three years to tell me so!'* 

He looked at her with grave surprise. "And do you 
resent my telling you, even now?** 

His parries were incredible. They left her 

[414] 



THE LETTERS 

sense of thrusting at emptiness, and a desperate, al- 
most vindictive desire to drive him against the wall 
and pin him there. 

"No. Only I wonder you should take the trouble to 
tell me, when at the time " 

And now, with a sudden turn, he gave her the 
final surprise of meeting her squarely on her own 
ground. 

"When at the time I didn't? But how could I — ^at 
the time?" 

"Why couldn't you? YouVe not yet told me." 

He gave her again his look of disarming patience. 
"Do I need to? Hasn't my whole wretched story told 
you?" 

"Told me why you never answered my letters?" 

"Yes — since I could only answer them in one way: 
by protesting my love and my longing." 

There was a pause, of resigned expectancy on his 
part, on hers of a wild, confused reconstruction of her 
shattered past. "You mean, then, that you didn't write 
because " 

"Because I found, when I reached America, that I 
was a pauper; that my wife's money was gone, and 
that what I could earn — I've so little gift that way! — 
was barely enough to keep Juliet clothed and educated. 
It was as if an iron door had been locked and barred 
between us." 

[415] 






/ 



THE LETTERS 

Lizzie felt herself driven back, panting, on the last 
defences of her incredulity. "You might at least have 
told me — ^have explained. Do you think I shouldn't have 
understood?" 

He did not hesitate. "You would have understood. 
It wasn't that." 

What was it then?" she quavered. 
It's wonderful you shouldn't see! Simply that I 
couldn't write you that. Anything else — ^not thair* 

"And so you preferred to let me suffer?" 

There was a shade of reproach in his eyes. "I suf^ 
fered too," he said. 

It was his first direct appeal to her compassion, and 
for a moment it nearly unsettled the delicate poise of 
her sympathies, and sent them trembling in the direc- 
tion of scorn and irony. But even as the impulse rose 
it was stayed by another sensation. Once again, as so 
often in the past, she became aware of a fact which, 
in his absence, she always failed to reckon with; the 
fact of the deep irreducible difference between his 
image in her mind and his actual self — ^the mysterious 
alteration in her judgment produced by the inflections 
of his voice, the look of his eyes, the whole complex 
pressure of his personality. She had phrased it once, 
self-reproachfuUy, by saying to herself that she "never 
could remember him — " so completely did the sight of 
him supersede the counterfeit about which her fancy 

[ ^^^ ] 



THE LETTERS 

wove its perpetual wonders. Bright and breathing as 
that counterfeit was, it became a figment of the mind 
at the touch of his presence, and on this occasion the 
immediate result was to cause her to feel his possible 
unhappiness with an intensity beside which her private 
injury paled. 

''I suffered horribly/' he repeated, *'and all the 
more that I couldn't make a sign, couldn't cry out 
my misery. There was only one escape from it all — 
to hold my tongue, and pray that you might hate 
me. 

The blood rushed to Lizzie's forehead. '^Hate you 
— ^you prayed that I might hate you ?" 

He rose from his seat, and moving closer, lifted her 
hand in his. "Yes; because your letters showed me that 
if you didn't, you'd be unhappier still." 

Her hand lay motionless, with the warmth of his 
flowing through it, and her thoughts, too — ^her poor 
fluttering stormy thoughts — ^felt themselves suddenly 
penetrated by the same soft current of communion. 

"And I meant to keep my resolve," he went on, 
slowly releasing his clasp. "I meant to keep it even 
after the random stream of things swept me back here, 
in your way; but when I saw you the other day I felt 
that what had been possible at a distance was impossi- 
ble now that we were near each other. How could I 
see you, and let you hate me?" 

[417] 



THE LETTERS 

He had moved away, but not to resume his seat. He 
merely paused at a little distance, his hand resting on 
a chair-back, in the transient attitude that precedes 
departure. 

Lizzie's heart contracted. He was going, then, and 
this was his farewell. He was going, and she could find 
no word to detain him but the senseless stammer: ''I 
never hated you." 

He considered her with a faint smile. ''It's not neces- 
sary, at any rate, that you should do so now. Time 
and circumstances have made me so harmless — that's 
exactly why I've dared to venture back. And I wanted 
to tell you how I rejoice in your good fortune. It's the 
only obstacle between us that I can't bring myself to 
wish away." 

Lizzie sat silent, spell-bound, as she listened, by the 
sudden evocation of Mr. Jackson Benn. He stood there 
again, between herself and Deering, perpendicular and 
reproachful, but less solid and sharply outlined than 
before, with a look in his small hard eyes that desper- 
ately wailed for re-embodiment. 

Deering was continuing his farewell speech. "You*re 
rich now — ^you're free. You will marry." She saw him 
holding out his hand. 

"It's not true that I'm engaged!" she broke out. 
They were the last words she had meant to utter; they 
were hardly related to her conscious thoughts; but she 

[418] 



THE LETTERS 

felt her whole will gathered up in the irrepressible im- 
pulse to repudiate and fling away from her forever the 
spectral claim of Mr. Jackson Benn. 



vn 

It was the firm conviction of Andora Macy that every 
object in the Vincent Deerings' charming little house 
at Neuilly had been expressly designed for the Deer- 
ings' son to play with. 

The house was full of pretty things, some not ob- 
viously applicable to the purpose; but Miss Macy's 
casuistry was equal to the baby's appetite, and the 
baby's mother was no match for them in the art of 
defending her possessions. There were moments, in 
fact, when she almost fell in with Andora's sum- 
mary division of her works of art into articles safe or 
unsafe for the baby to lick, or resisted it only to the 
extent of occasionally substituting some less precious, 
or less perishable, object for the particular fragility on 
which her son's desire was fixed. And it was with this 
intention that, on a certain spring morning — which 
wore the added lustre of being the baby's second birth- 
day — she had murmured, with her mouth in his curls, 
and one hand holding a bit of Chelsea above his 
clutch: '* Wouldn't he rather have that beautiful shiny 

thing in Aunt Andora's hand ?" 

[ 419 ] 



THE LETTERS 

The two friends were together in Lizzie's momiiig- 
room — ^the room she had chosen, on acquiring the 
house, because, when she sat there, she could hear 
Deering's step as he paced up and down before his 
easel in the studio she had built for him. His step had 
been less r^ularly audible than she had hoped, for, 
after three years of wedded bliss, he had somehow 
failed to settle down to the great work which was to 
result from that state; but even when she did not hear 
him she knew that he was there, above her head, 
stretched out on the old divan from St.-Cloud, and 
smoking countless cigarettes while he skimmed the 
morning papers; and the sense of his nearness had not 
yet lost its first keen edge of wonder. 

Lizzie herself, on the day in question, was engaged 
in a more arduous task than the study of the morning's 
news. She had never unlearned the habit of orderly 
activity, and the trait she least understood in her hus- 
band's character was his way of letting the loose ends 
of life hang as they would. She had been disposed to 
ascribe this to the chronic incoherence of his first 
menctge; but now she knew that, though he basked 
under her beneficent rule, he would never feel any im- 
pulse to further its work. He liked to see things fall 
into place about him at a wave of her wand; but his 
enjoyment of her household magic in no way dimin- 
ished his smiling irresponsibility, and it was with one 

I 420 ] 



THE LETTERS 

of its least amiable consequences that his wife and her 
friend were now dealing. 

Before them stood two travel-worn trunks and a dis- 
tended portmanteau, which had shed their heterogene- 
ous contents over Lizzie's rosy carpet. They represented 
the hostages left by her husband on his somewhat 
precipitate departure from a New York boarding- 
house, and redeemed by her on her learning, in a curt 
letter from his landlady, that the latter was not dis- 
posed to regard them as an equivalent for the arrears of 
Deering's board. 

Lizzie had not been shocked by the discovery that 
her husband had left America in debt. She had too sad 
an acquaintance with the economic strain to see any 
humiliation in such accidents; but it offended her 
sense of order that he should not have liquidated his 
obligation in the three years since their marriage. He 
took her remonstrance with his usual good humour, 
and left her to forward the liberating draft, though her 
delicacy had provided him with a bank-account which 
assured his personal independence. Lizzie had dis- 
charged the duty without repugnance, since she knew 
that his delegating it to her was the result of his indo- 
lence and not of any design on her exchequer. Deer- 
ing was not dazzled by money; his altered fortunes had 
tempted him to no excesses: he was simply too lazy to 

[4«1] 



THE LETTERS 

draw the cheque, as he had been too lazy to remember 
the debt it cancelled. 

'*No, dear! No!" Lizzie lifted the Chelsea higher. 
"Can't you find something for him, Andora, among 
that rubbish over there ? Where's the beaded bag you 
had in your hand ? I don't think it could hurt him to 
lick that." 

Miss Macy, bag in hand, rose from her knees, and 
stumbled across the room through the frayed garments 
and old studio properties. Before the group of mother 
and son she fell into a rapturous attitude. 

"Do look at him reach for it, the tyrant! Isn't he 
just like the young Napoleon ?" 

Lizzie laughed and swung her son in air. "Dangle 
it before him, Andora. If you let him have it too quickly, 
he won't care for it. He's just like any man, I think." 

Andora slowly lowered the bag till the heir of the 
Deerings closed his masterful fist upon it. "There — ^my 
Chelsea's safe!" Lizzie smiled, setting her boy on the 
floor, and watching him stagger away with his booty. 

Andora stood beside her, watching too. "Do you 
know where that bag came from, Lizzie?" 

Mrs. Deering, bent above a pile of discollared shirts, 

shook an inattentive head. "I never saw such wicked 

washing! There isn't one that's fit to mend. The bag? 

No; I've not the least idea." 

[422] 



THE LETTERS 

Andora surveyed her incredulously. *' Doesn't it make 
you utterly miserable to think that some woman may 
have made it for him ?" 

Lizzie, still bowed in scrutiny above the shirts, broke 
into a laugh. '* Really, Andora, really! Six, seven, nine; 
no, there isn't even a dozen. There isn't a whole dozen 
of anything. I don't see how men live alone." 

Andora broodingly pursued her theme. ** Do you mean 
to tell me it doesn't make you jealous to handle these 
things of his that other women may have given him ?" 

Lizzie shook her head again, and, straightening her- 
self with a smile, tossed a bundle in her friend's direc- 
tion. ''No, I don't feel jealous. Here, count these socks 
for me, like a darling." 

Andora moaned "Don't you feel anything at all?** 
as the socks landed in her hollow bosom; but Lizzie, 
intent upon her task, tranquilly continued to unfold 
and sort. She felt a great deal as she did so, but her 
feelings were too deep and delicate for the simplifying 
processes of speech. She only knew that each article 
she drew from the trunks sent through her the long 
tremor of Deering's touch. It was part of her wonder- 
ful new life that everything belonging to him contained 
an infinitesimal fraction of himself — a fraction becom- 
ing visible in the warmth of her love as certain secret 
elements become visible in rare intensities of tempera- 
ture. And in the case of the objects before her, poor 

[488] 



THE LETTERS 

shabby witnesses of his days of failure, what they gave 
out acquired a special poignancy from its contrast to 
his present cherished state. His shirts were all in round 
dozens now, and washed as carefully as old lace. As 
for his socks, she knew the pattern of every pair, and 
would have liked to see the washerwoman who dared 
to mislay one, or bring it home with the colours ''run '*! 
And in these homely tokens of his well-being she saw 
the symbol of what her tenderness had brought him. 
He was safe in it, encompassed by it, morally and ma- 
terially, and she defied the embattled powers of malice 
to reach him through the armour of her love. Such 
feelings, however, were not communicable, even had 
one desired to express them: they were no more to be 
distinguished from the sense of life itself than bees 
from the lime-blossoms in which they murmur. 

"Oh, do look at him, Lizzie! He's found out how to 
open the bag!'* 

Lizzie lifted her head to look a moment at her son» 
throned on a heap of studio rubbish, with Andora 
before him on adoring knees. She thought vaguely 
''Poor Andora!" and then resumed the discouraged 
inspection of a buttonless white waistcoat. The next 
sound she was conscious of was an excited exclamation 
from her friend. 

"Why, Lizzie, do you know what he used the bag 

for? To keep your letters in!" 

[424] 



X 



THE LETTERS 

Lizzie looked up more quickly. She was aware that 
Andora's pronoun had changed its object, and was 
now applied to Deering. And it struck her as odd, and 
slightly disagreeable, that a letter of hers should be 
found among the rubbish abandoned in her husband's 
New York lodgings. 

"How funny! Give it to me, please." 

"Give it to Aunt Andora, darling! Here — look inside, 
and see what else a big, big boy can find there! — ^Yes, 
here's another! Why, why " 

Lizzie rose with a shade of impatience and crossed 
the floor to the romping group beside the other trunk. 

"What is it? Give me the letters, please." As she 
spoke, she suddenly recalled the day when, in Mme. 
Clopin's pensioTti she had addressed a similar behest 
to Andora Macy. 

Andora lifted to her a look of startled conjecture. 
"Why, this one's never been opened! Do you suppose 
that awful woman could have kept it from him?" 

Lizzie laughed. Andora's imaginings were really 
puerile! "What awful woman? His landlady? Don't 
be such a goose, Andora. How can it have been kept 
back from him, when we've found it among his 
things?" 

"Yes; but then why was it never opened ?" 

Andora held out the letter, and Lizzie took it. The 
writing was hers; the envelope bore the Passy post- 

[425] 



THE LETTERS 

mark; and it was unopened. She looked at it with a 
sharp drop of the heart. 

"Why, so are the others — ^all unopened!" Andora 
threw out on a rising note; but Lizzie, stooping over, 
checked her. 

"Give them to me, please." 

"Oh, Lizzie, Lizzie — " Andora, on her knees, held 
back the packet, her pale face paler with anger and 
compassion. "Lizzie, they're the letters I used to post 
for you — the letters he never answered! Look!** 

"Give them back to me, please." Lizzie possessed 
herself of the letters. 

The two women faced each other, Andora still kneel- 
ing, Lizzie motionless before her. The blood had rushed 
to her face, humming in her ears, and forcing itself into 
the veins of her temples. Then it ebbed, and she felt 
cold and weak. 

"It must have becfn some plot — ^some conspiracy," 
Andora cried, so fired by the ecstasy of invention that 
for the moment she seemed lost to all but the sesthetic 
aspect of the case. 

Lizzie averted her eyes with an effort, and they 
rested on the boy, who sat at her feet placidly sucking 
the tassels of the bag. His mother stooped and extracted 
them from his rosy mouth, which a cry of wrath im- 
mediately filled. She lifted him in her arms, and for 
the first time no current of life ran from his body into 

[ «6 ] 



THE LETTERS 

hers. He felt heavy and clumsy, like some other 
woman's child; and his screams annoyed her. 

"Take him away, please, Andora." 

*'Oh, Lizzie, Lizzie!'' Andora wailed. 

Lizzie held out the child, and Andora, struggling to 
her feet, received him. 

'*I know just how you feel," she gasped, above the 
baby's head. 

Lizzie, in some dark hollow of herself, heard the 
faint echo of a laugh. Andora always thought she 
knew how people felt! 

"Tell Marthe to take him with her when she fetches 
Juliet home from school." 

*'Yes, yes." Andora gloated on her. ''If you'd only 
give way, my darling!" 

The baby, howling, dived over Andora's shoulder 
for the bag. 

"Oh, take him!" his mother ordered. 

Andora, from the door, cried out: "I'll be back at 
once. Remember, love, you're not alone!" 

But Lizzie insisted, "Go with them — I wish you to 
go with them," in the tone to which Miss Macy had 
never learned the answer. 

The door closed on her reproachful back, and Lizzie 
stood alone. She looked about the disordered room, 
which offered a dreary image of the havoc of her life. 
An hour or two ago, eveiything about her had been so 

[487] 



THE LETTERS 

exquisitely ordered, without and within: her thoughts 
and her emotions had all been outspread before her 
like jewels laid away symmetrically in a collector's 
cabinet. Now they had been tossed down helter-skel- 
ter among the rubbish there on the floor, and had 
themselves turned to rubbish like the rest. Yes, 
there lay her life at her feet, among all that tarnished 
trash. 

She picked up her letters, ten in all, and examined 
the flaps of the envelopes. Not one had been opened 
— ^not one. As she looked, every word she had written 
fluttered to life, and every feeling prompting it sent a 
tremor through her. With vertiginous speed and micro- 
scopic distinctness of vision she was reliving that whole 
period of her life, stripping bare again the ruin over 
which the drift of three happy years had fallen. 

She laughed at Andora's notion of a conspiracy — of 
the letters having been *'kept back." She required no 
extraneous aid in deciphering the mystery: her three 
years' experience of Deering shed on it all the light she 
needed. And yet a moment before she had believed 
herself to be perfectly happy! Now it was the worst 
part of her pain that it did not really surprise her. 

She knew so well how it must have happened. The 
letters had reached him when he was busy, occupied 
with something else, and had been put aside to be read 
at some future time — a time which never came. Per- 

[ 428 ] 



THE LETTERS 

haps on the steamer, even, he had met "some one else" 
— the ''some one'' who lurks, veiled and ominous, in 
the background of every woman's thoughts about her 
lover. Or perhaps he had been merely forgetful. She 
knew now that the sensations which he seemed to feel 
most intensely left no reverberations in his memory — 
that he did not relive either his pleasures or his pains. 
She needed no better proof than the lightness of his 
conduct toward his daughter. He seemed to have taken 
it for granted that Juliet would remain indefinitely 
with the friends who had received her after her mother's 
deaths and it was at Lizzie's suggestion that the little 
girl was brought home and that they had established 
themselves at Neuilly to be near her school. But Juliet 
once with them, he became the model of a tender 
father, and Lizzie wondered that he had not felt the 
child's absence, since he seemed so affectionately aware 
of her presence. 

Lizzie had noted all this in Juliet's case, but had 
taken for granted that her own was different; that she 
formed, for Deering, the exception which eveiy woman 
secretly supposes herself to form in the experience of 
the man she loves. She had learned by this time that she 
could not modify his habits; but she imagined that she 
had deepened his sensibilities, had furnished him with 
an "ideal" — angelic function! And she now saw that 
the fact of her letters — ^her unanswered letters — having, 
on his own assurance, "meant so much" to him, had 

[4«9] 



THE LETTERS 

been the basis on which this beautiful fabric was 
reared. 

There they lay now» the letters, precisely as when 
they had left her hands. He had not had time to read 
them; and there had been a moment in her past when 
that discovery would have been to her the sharpest 
pang imaginable. She had travelled far beyond that 
point. She could have forgiven him now for having 
forgotten her; but she could never foigive him for hav- 
ing deceived her. 

She sat down, and looked again about the loom. 
Suddenly she heard his step overhead, and her heart 
contracted. She was afraid that he was coming down 
to her. She sprang up and bolted the door; then she 
dropped into the nearest chair, tremulous and ex- 
hausted, as if the act had required an inunense effort. 
A moment later she heard him on the stairs, and her 
tremor broke into a fit of shaking. **I loathe you — I 
loathe you!'* she cried. 

She listened apprehensively for his touch on the 
handle of the door. He would come in, humming a 
tune, to ask some idle question and lay a caress on her 
hair. But no, the door was bolted; she was safe. She 
continued to listen, and the step passed on. He had 
not been coming to her, then. He must have gone down- 
stairs to fetch something — another newspaper, perhaps. 
He seemed to read little else, and she sometimes won- 
dered when he had found time to store the material 

[ 480 ] 



THE LETTERS 

that used to serve for their famous "literary'* talks. 
The wonder shot through her again, barbed with a 
sneer. At that moment it seemed to her that eveiy- 
thing he had ever done and been was a lie. 

She heard the house door close» and started up. Was 
he going out ? It was not his habit to leave the house in 
the morning. 

She crossed the room to the window, and saw him 
walking, with a quick decided step, between the lilacs 
to the gate. What could have called him forth at that 
unusual hour? It was odd that he should not have told 
her. The fact that she thought it odd suddenly showed 
her how closely their lives were interwoven. She had 
become a habit to him, and he was fond of his habits. 
But to her it was as if a stranger had opened the gate 
and gone out. She wondered what he would feel if he 
knew that she felt thai. 

''In an hour he will know,'' she said to herself, with 
a kind of fierce exultation; and immediately she began 
to dramatise the scene. As soon as he came in she 
meant to call him up to her room and hand him the 
letters without a word. For a moment she gloated on 
the picture; then her imagination recoiled. She was 
humiliated by the thought of humiliating him. She 
wanted to keep his image intact; she would not see him. 

He had lied to her about her letters — ^had lied to her 
when he found it to his interest to regain her favour. 

[♦31] 



THE LETTERS 

Yes, there was the point to hold fast. He had sought 
her out when he learned that she was rich. Perhaps 
he had come back from America on purpose to marxj 
her; no doubt he had come back on purpose. It was 
incredible that she had not seen this at the time. She 
turned sick at the thought of her fatuity and of the 
grossness of his arts. Well» the event proved that they 
were all he needed. . . But why had he gone out at such 
an hour? She was irritated to find herself still pre^ 
occupied by his comings and goings. 

Turning from the window, she sat down again. She 
wondered what she meant to do next. . . No, she would 
not show him the letters; she would simply leave them 
on his table and go away. She would leave the house 
with her boy and Andora. It was a relief to feel a defi- 
nite plan forming itself in her mind — something that 
her uprooted thoughts could fasten on. She would go 
away» of course; and meanwhile, in order not to see 
him, she would feign a headache, and remain in her 
room till after luncheon. Then she and Andora would 
pack a few things, and fly with the child while he was 
dawdling about up-stairs in the studio. When one's 
house fell, one fled from the ruins: nothing could be 
simpler, more inevitable. 

Her thoughts were checked by the impossibility of 
picturing what would happen next. Try as she would, 
she could not see herself and the child away from 

[4S2] 



THE LETTERS 

Deering. But that, of course, was because of her ner- 
vous weakness. She had youth, money, energy: all the 
trumps were on her side. It was much more difficult 
to imagine what would become of Deering. He was so 
dependent on her, and they had been so happy to- 
gether! It struck her as illogical and even immoral, and 
yet she knew he had been happy with her. It never 
happened like that in novels: happiness "built on a lie'* 
always crumbled, burying the presumptuous architect 
beneath its ruins. According to the laws of fiction, 
Deering, having deceived her once, would inevitably 
have gone on deceiving her. Yet she knew he had not 
gone on deceiving her. . . 

She tried again to picture her new life. Her friends, J 
of course, would rally about her. But the prospect left 
her cold; she did not want them to rally. She wanted 
only one thing — the life she had been living before she 
had given her baby the embroidered bag to play with. 
Oh, why had she given him the bag ? She had been so 
happy, they had all been so happy! Eveiy nerve in her 
clamoured for her lost happiness, angrily, irrationally, 
as the boy had clamoured for his bag! It was horrible 
to know too much; there was always blood in the 
foundations. Parents "kept things" from children — 
protected them from all the dark secrets of pain and evil. 
And was any life livable unless it were thus protected ? 
Could any one look in the Medusa's face and live ? 

[♦83] 



THE LETTERS 

But why should she leave the house, since it was 
hers ? Here» with her boy and Andora, she could still 
make for herself the semblance of a life. It was Deering 
who would have to go; he would understand that as 
soon as he saw the letters. 

She saw him going — leaving the house as he had 
left it just now. She saw the gate closing on him for the 
last time. Now her vision was acute enough: she saw 
him as distinctly as if he were in the room. Ah» he 
would not like returning to the old life of privations 
and expedients! And yet she knew he would not plead 
with her. 

Suddenly a new thought seized her. What if Andora 
had rushed to him with the tale of the discovery of the 
letters — ^with the " Fly, you are discovered ! " of romantic 
fiction ? What if he had left her for good ? It would not 
be unlike him, after all. For all his sweetness he was 
always evasive and inscrutable. He might have said to 
himself that he would forestall her action, and place 
himself at once on the defensive. It might be that she 
had seen him go out of the gate for the last time. 

She looked about the room again, as if the thought 
had given it a new aspect. Yes, this alone could explain 
her husband's going out. It was past twelve o'clodc» 
their usual luncheon hour, and he was scrupulously 
punctual at meals, and gently reproachful if she kq>t 
him waiting. Only some unwonted event could have 

1484] 



THE LETTERS 

caused him to leave the house at such an hour and 
with such marks of haste. Well, perhaps it was better 
that Andora should have spoken. She mistrusted her 
own courage; she almost hoped the deed had been 
done for her. Yet her next sensation was one of con- 
fused resentment. She said to herself ''Why has An- 
dora interfered ?** She felt baffled and angiy» as though 
her prey had escaped her. If Deering had been in the 
house she would have gone to him instantly and over- 
whelmed him with her scorn. But he had gone out,, 
and she did not know where he had gone, and oddly 
mingled with her anger against him was the latent in- 
stinct of vigilance, the solicitude of the woman accus- 
tomed to watch over the man she loves. It would be 
strange never to feel that solicitude again, never to 
hear him say, with his hand on her hair: "You foolish 
child, were you worried ? Am I late ?'* 

The sense of his touch was so real that she stiffened 
herself against it, flinging back her head as if to throw 
off his hand. The mere thought of his caress was hate- 
ful; yet she felt it in all her veins. Yes, she felt it, but 
with horror and repugnance. It was something she 
wanted to escape from, and the fact of struggling 
against it was what made its hold so strong. It was aa 
though her mind were sounding her body to make sure 
of its allegiance, spying on it for any secret movement 

of revolt . • • 

[485] 



THE LETTERS 

To escape from the sensation, she rose and w^it 
again to the window. No one was in sight. But pres- 
ently the gate b^an to swing back, and her heart gave 
a leap — ^she knew not whether up or down. A moment 
later the gate opened to admit a perambulator, pro- 
pelled by the nurse and flanked by Juliet and Andora. 
Lizzie's eyes rested on the familiar group as if she had 
never seen it before, and she stood motionless, instead 
of flying down to meet the children. 

Suddenly there was a step on the stairs, and she 
heard Andora's knock. She unbolted the door, and was 
strained to her friend's emaciated bosom. 

"My darling!" Miss Macy cried. "Remember you 
have your child — and me!" 

Lizzie loosened herself. She looked at Andora with a 
feeling of estrangement which she could not explain. 

"Have you spoken to my husband?" she asked, 
drawing coldly back. 

"Spoken to him? No." Andora stared at her, 
surprised. 

"Then you haven't met him since he went out? 

"No, my love. Is he out? I haven't met him.' 

Lizzie sat down with a confused sense of relief, 
which welled up to her throat and made speech diffi- 
cult. 

Suddenly light seemed to come to Andora. "I under- 
stand, dearest. You don't feel able to see him yourself. 

[ 486] 



1^" 

99 



THE LETTERS 

You want me to go to him for you." She looked eagerly 
about her, scenting the battle. '"You're right, darling. 
As soon as he comes in, I'll go to him. The sooner we 
get it over, the better." 

She followed Lizzie, who had turned restlessly back 
to the window. As they stood there, the gate moved 
again, and Deering entered. 

"There he is now!" Lizzie felt Andora's excited 
clutch upon her arm. *' Where are the letters ? I will go 
down at once. You allow me to speak for you ? You 
trust my woman's heart? Oh, believe me, darling," 
Miss Macy panted, ""I shall know exactly what to say 
to him!" 

''What to say to him?" Lizzie absently repeated. 

As her husband advanced up the path she had a 
sudden vision of their three years together. Those 
years were her whole life; everything before them had 
been colourless and unconscious, like the blind life of 
the plant before it reaches the surface of the soil. The 
years had not been exactly what she had dreamed; 
but if they had taken away certain illusions they had 
left richer realities in their stead. She understood now 
that she had gradually adjusted herself to the new 
image of her husband as he was, as he would always 
be. He was not the hero of her dreams, but he was the 
man she loved, and who had loved her. For she saw 
now, in this last wide flash of pity and initiation, that, 

[487] 



THE LETTERS 

as a comely marble may be made out of worthless scraps 
of mortar, glass» and pebbles, so out of mean mixed 
substances may be fashioned a love that will bear the 
stress of life. 

More urgently, she felt the pressure of Miss Mack's 
hand. 

"I shall hand him the letters without a word. You 
may rely, love, on my sense of dignity. I know every- 
thing you're feeling at this moment!'* 

Deering had reached the doorstep. Lizzie watched 
him in silence till he disappeared under the projecting 
roof of the porch; then she turned and looked almost 
compassionately at her friend. 

"Oh, poor Andora, you don't know anything — ^you 
don't know anything at all!" she said. 



[4S8] 



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